Negligently exposing boilermakers to vibration
The former British Steel, Corus UK, has been found liable for negligently exposing boilermakers to vibration, in a landmark ruling that could have implications for the entire steel industry in the UK.
It is the first instance that Corus has been found liable for causing workers to suffer the debilitating condition known as Vibration White Finger (VWF). The ruling, that Corus knew enough about VWF by 1987 to protect its workers and failed to do so, means that a number of other cases against Corus, and against other steel industry firms, should now succeed.
GMB member Iran Kington, who worked as a boilermaker at Corus's Llanwern plant in South Wales from the 1960s until he was made redundant in 2000, suffered severe attacks in his fingers caused by years of using vibrating tools. VWF causes loss of blood and sensation in the fingers and severe pins and needles, particularly in winter. It makes simple tasks, such as picking up coins, difficult, and working with tools impossible.
The publication of a British Standard Guide in 1987 placed a duty on employers to protect workers using vibrating tools. Corus failed to act on this guidance, which included providing gloves that would limit the effect of vibration, introducing anti-vibrating tools and having a system of job rotation and rest breaks.
Because Mr Kington was made redundant around the time that his condition was diagnosed, he will only receive around £5,000 in compensation. But other cases, where the claimant is still working and can no longer carry out their duties, will attract higher compensation.
Important ruling for vibration compensation
GMB's Regional Head of Administration, Nick Hughes said:
"This is a great result for all GMB members in the industry. Working through our solicitors, the GMB has not only secured some justice and compensation for Iran's pain and discomfort, but also ensured that Corus will no longer be able to shirk its responsibility and liability in any future claims."
Mark Roberts, of Thompsons Cardiff, who acted for Mr Davies and Mr Kington on behalf of South Western GMB, said: "This ruling is extremely important because it proves that Corus knew from 1987 what its duties were and that it did not carry them out. This is the first instance that liability has been found against Corus and I hope that a number of other cases will be able to proceed on that basis."
Mr Kington said: "I have endured an immense amount of pain. Everyday tasks have at times been impossible. I am very angry that Corus caused my condition and then forced me to go through the stress of a trial because they refused to admit responsibility. That it is finally over is a great relief, though the discomfort continues."
Notes for editors
The case of Davies, Kington and Hyde v Corus Ltd was heard before Honour Judge Hickinbottom in the Cardiff County Court. Compensation was awarded only to Mr Kington.
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