A Highways worker who had to take three months off work after she was forced to wear unsuitable footwear whilst working has received £3,600 in compensation. 

Deborah Allen from Birmingham developed Achilles tendonitis when her eczema flared up after she was forced to wear synthetic work boots.

She worked as a traffic officer for the Highways Authority Traffic Information Services where she was responsible for responding to road traffic incidents.

When she was considered for the role she told her employers, she suffered from eczema and warned that the issued footwear would make her condition worse. 

For almost a year she wore her own pair of leather boots but was told in March 2008 that she had to wear the work-issued boots.

GP explained that boots would cause injury

Despite a letter from her GP explaining how serious her condition was the employers refused to look at alternative boots which would match safety requirements and prevent her from suffering further outbreaks of eczema which in turn would lead to developing Achilles tendonitis.

Mrs Allen’s feet became so painful she was unable to walk. She had to take three months off work while they recovered. 

She contacted her union, the PCS, to get them to make the employers see sense and in addition to fighting for a sensible approach in the future the union instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation for what she had been through.

Eventually after a referral by the authority to a podiatrist, who confirmed Mrs Allen’s problems were caused by work-issued boots, she was bought footwear which wouldn’t aggravate her condition.

Mrs Allen said: “When I was first considered to become a traffic officer by the authority I explained my condition and during my first year I wore boots which I had bought. Following a directive that we had to wear work-issued safety equipment my warnings about the consequences weren’t taken seriously. Rather than risk losing my job I did my best to cope with the synthetic boots but soon the Achilles tendonitis became so bad I could no longer walk and I had to take time off.

“I decided to contact my union as I needed them to make my employers see sense about how serious my condition was. What I wanted was sensible adjustments to policies to accommodate people with genuine conditions.”

Employer should have listened to medical advice

Martin Ogilvie, PCS industrial officer, said: “We of course fully support the use of appropriate health and safety equipment, but there is always room for a little common sense. Employees who have an adverse reaction to safety wear should be offered a suitable alternative.”

Elizabeth Ford from Thompsons Solicitors added: “Mrs Allen was placed in a difficult position. She felt compelled to wear safety boots which she knew would ultimately leave her unable to walk.

“The Highways Authority Traffic Information Services should have listened to the medical advice she provided and acted upon it promptly.”