Northampton-based KAB Seating Ltd has been brought to book by Unite the Union after falling safety standards saw one of its members left with permanent damage to their hand.

56 year old machine operative Stephen Wallinger, from Northampton, had to take six months off work and faced a surgical procedure to relieve intense pain in his left hand after sub-standard manufacturing equipment at the car seat factory led to a workplace injury.

Faulty manufacturing equipment at the plant required Stephen to physically force car seats into place during the assembly process, as problems with the equipment meant that the seats were not being correctly aligned.

Despite making repeated attempts to convince management to repair the equipment over a period of four months, he was instructed to continue to manually force the seats to fit.

By December 2009, Stephen was suffering excruciating pain from his left thumb and throughout his arm, as the repetitive forceful action exacerbated an arthritic condition. He sought medical advice after the pain made it difficult for him to carry out his job.

He has undergone a surgical procedure and faces further surgery

To date, he has undergone a surgical procedure to help combat the acceleration of arthritis, which left him unable to work for 14 weeks. He now faces additional further surgery and can no longer work in the machine operative role he had performed for two years.

At his request, his union instructed the Unite Legal Service to take up his case for compensation which was recently settled with a significant sum.

He said: “This injury has left permanent damage and could easily have been prevented if the company had invested in refurbishing the tooling equipment. It’s frustrating to raise a serious health and safety issue with your employer and then be ignored.

“I have a young family, so during the time I was off work on sick pay it was a struggle for us financially.

“I’m constantly reminded of my injury on a day to day basis. I am naturally left handed and now have limited power in this hand, making heavy lifting or even basic household tasks difficult.”

Employers chose to ignore faulty equipment

Sally Mortimer at Unite the Union added: “Stephen brought this to his employer's attention on several occasions and they chose to ignore it.

“By refusing to repair equipment that could have simply prevented this situation, KAB Seating has caused our member a life-long injury. I hope that in helping Stephen secure compensation for the distress he has suffered, this will also send out a resounding message to employers – complacency and indifference to the welfare of staff costs you and them and Unite won't tolerate it.

“We are grateful to the team at Thompsons Solicitors for supporting our member in this settlement.”