RMT member receives £68,000 in damages from Network Rail15 February 2012
Exposure to excessive levels of vibration
An RMT member who developed a debilitating condition in his hands from using vibrating tools during 12 hour shifts for Network Rail has received substantial compensation.
The track maintenance worker, from Nottingham, has had to give up his work on the railways after developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) - a condition which leads to numbness and muscle weakness - in both hands as a result of exposure to excessive levels of vibration.
The dad of three, who had worked on the railways for eight years, has received surgery on both his hands but the condition has caused permanent nerve damage meaning he can no longer work in heavy industry.
He was exposed to vibrating tools whilst working 12 hour shifts for Network Rail from 2006 to 2008. He was working up to 80 hours in overtime a month and had no idea that the excessive vibration in the tools he was using would lead to him being unemployed. His employer failed to warn him and to ensure that simple measures, such as regular rest breaks and rotating the tools used, were taken.
The member noticed pins and needles in his hands which then began to go numb. He asked to see his employer’s doctor but never received an appointment. In the end his own GP signed him off sick.
In total he needed 14 months off work while he awaited, and then recovered from, the surgery. But it failed to improve his condition sufficiently and he was deemed medically unfit for the work.
Having left school at 16 to become a labourer, he is now attending college to gain qualifications in order to try to find an alternative career.
He can no longer undertake any type of task with his hands for long. He says it has been particularly hard not being able to play tennis or cricket with his children for longer than ten minutes at a time.
He said: “All I’ve known is working on the railways and in construction so I’m now struggling to find a job. I’ve had to go back to school to gain qualifications which I hope will improve my chances of finding alternative work.
“When I was at Network Rail I worked all the overtime I could as it improved my wage. If I had known what the future held I would have turned down that money and taken my health instead.”
Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation
Following his diagnosis he contacted the RMT, which instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a claim for compensation.
Thompsons argued that Network Rail should have monitored its employees use of vibrating tools to ensure it was within a safe level and to take action to protect him if it was not.
Network Rail admitted liability and settled the claim out of court for £68,000.
Bob Crow from the RMT said: “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be a debilitating condition which can have a life changing impact on those who work in manual labour. This member is now restricted in the jobs market because his employers didn’t do enough to protect him from this hazard.
Jane Toplis from Thompsons Solicitors added: “Courts consider that employers should have known the risk workers face when using vibrating tools on a regular basis since 1975. There is no excuse for precautions not to have been taken. This member will suffer the rest of his life because Network Rail ignored clear guidelines on this matter.”
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