A Sellafield worker and Unite the union member has received a seven-figure settlement after he suffered serious amputation injuries at work while employed by Johnson Controls as a mechanical fitter.

Kenneth Brown (a 64-year-old father and grandfather who lives in Workington) was working for Johnson Controls as a mechanical fitter which had been sub-contracted to the Sellafield site. The accident occurred on the Windscale part of the site.

Cherry picker crushed his left leg

Mr Brown had been working as a banksman and was knocked down by a cherry picker or mobile elevated working platform (otherwise known as a MEWP) driven by another one of Johnson Controls' employees. Mr Brown was walking on the roadway directing the MEWP when without warning the cherry picker moved forward and then proceeded to crush his left leg. As a result, Mr Brown sustained extensive crush injuries to his left leg which led to his left leg being amputated above the knee.

Health and Safety Executive investigation

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) subsequently investigated this accident and reported that Johnson Controls Ltd had been guilty of a number of breaches of health and safety legislation [in particulars.2(1) Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and s.17(3) of the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992] and an improvement notice was issued. The improvement notice decreed that Johnson Controls Ltd had to devise a safe system of work when a MEWP is being used in combination with a “banksperson”/escort and that relevant training should be provided.

The HSE investigation found that Mr Brown and other staff at Johnsons Controls had escorted cherry pickers on foot several times a month, for at least 14 months, prior to him being injured.

The only advice the company gave to its employees when directing cherry pickers was to wear a high visibility waistcoat. No specific training was provided for the task to either drivers or persons acting as a banksperson.

Johnson Controls Ltd, part of a global organisation which employs more than 160,000 people, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of employees. Despite this, legal representatives of Johnson Controls still alleged that Mr Brown was partly to blame for the accident.

However, a settlement was reached whereby Mr Brown received a full award of damages.

Employer ignored fundamental health and safety procedures

Unite regional secretary, Mick Whitley, said: "Mr Brown has suffered horrific injuries because his employer ignored fundamental health and safety procedures. It is completely unacceptable for an employer to shirk responsibility and try to blame the injured worker in any case. But it is staggering that Johnson Controls Ltd would use such a cynical tactic to try and cut their compensation bill considering the life-changing injuries he suffered as result their negligence.

“I’m pleased we have been successful in securing such a significant level of damages for our member, although this can never compensate for his traumatic ordeal of losing a leg in a workplace accident. With the support of Unite Legal Services, Kenneth was able to receive expert legal advice and keep 100 per cent of his damages – despite government changes to the way personal injury claims are funded.

“I would like to thank Thompsons Solicitors for representing our member and using their experience of helping victims of serious injuries to secure such high-value compensation for Mr Brown.”

A brain injury specialist at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “This was a very serious injury which had devastating consequences for both Mr Brown and his family. We contended that Mr Brown’s employers were at fault because of the actions of another employee and that they failed to provide a safe working environment. A number of simple health and safety measures and the provision of appropriate training could have been put in place which would have avoided this accident from happening.

“Our priority, in this case, was to ensure Mr Brown was properly supported throughout the course of this case and that he received interim payments to fund not only his lost earnings but also his private rehabilitation, treatment, accommodation and his prosthetic limb costs. The compensation which we negotiated will hopefully allow Mr Brown to have not only a secure financial future but most importantly a better quality of life in the future”.