A GMB member has been awarded compensation against defunct care home operator Southern Cross after sustaining severe burns while working at one of its Bristol care homes.

The 67 year old has been left with scarring and sensitivity after burning her hand at a care home in the Nailsea area while preparing meals for the 60 elderly residents in 2011.

As she was lifting a large cast-iron saucepan of cabbage from the stove, the handles of her chef’s apron – which she had been using to protect her hands because she had not been given oven gloves – became tangled on one of the hob rings, causing the pan to tilt and boiling water to pour over her right hand.

She was left with painful burns to her dominant hand. The burn needed regular dressing and procedures to remove dead tissue.

She contacted the GMB legal service

After the injury, she contacted the GMB legal service, provided by Thompsons Solicitors, to instruct them to pursue damages on her behalf.

Investigations revealed that Southern Cross, the management firm in charge of the care home at the time and which collapsed that year*, had not provided clean oven gloves or tea towels which would have protected staff in the kitchen because the washing machine normally used to launder them, as well as the residents’ clothes and bedding, had been broken for over a fortnight.

Speaking about her injury, she said: “This could have been avoided if my then employers had simply had the washing machine fixed. It was desperately needed to maintain hygiene in the home. Why they dragged their feet I’ll never know – but I guess skimping on cost was at the bottom of it - I needed clean oven gloves in the kitchen and the residents needed clean bedding.

“I tried to get on with things as best I could by using my chefs apron, after all the residents couldn’t go hungry, but I’ve paid the price. It was incredibly painful at the time and I will have the scar on my hand for life.

“I’m pleased to say that under new management, I’ve found the safety standards at the home to be far better.”

Negligent management quibbled about the cost of fixing a broken washing machine which led to injury

Nick Hughes from the GMB said: “This was a totally avoidable accident at work. Southern Cross may have been in financial trouble, but quibbling about the cost of fixing a broken washing machine takes it to extremes.

“In trying to save a couple of hundred pounds they’ve landed themselves with a bill for thousands in compensation and negatively affected our member’s life.”

Dimuna Gething from Thompsons Solicitors, who represented the care home worker said: “We were pleased to have been able to support the GMB and our client but it was a real battle with Southern Cross who tried to duck the bill for their negligence and pass the bill onto the new management team running the home. We got the money but understanding that health and safety is there to protect the workforce and employers would have saved our client from injury and Southern Cross’s insurers from paying out..”