A welder has received £150,000 in compensation after one of his colleagues dropped a scaffolding pole from height, which struck the back of his neck and caused a fracture to his spine in two places. Barry Duckworth, 62, was working at Runcorn Thermal Power Station in Cheshire at the time of the accident.

He was inside a boiler room on the seventh floor of the power plant when his colleague dropped the pole from the ninth floor. As Barry was bending down to pick up his tools the pole hit his neck with force.

Barry was rushed to Warrington Hospital where he was in hospital for six days for MRI and CT scans. It was then confirmed that Barry’s spine was fractured in two places as a result of his accident. The Unite the Union member was in a neck brace for three months and was off work for 10 months.

When he returned to work for his employers, Interserve Industrial Services Ltd, he did so on restricted duties as his spinal injury prevented him from doing the tasks he was previously capable of. His injury ultimately led to the end of his career when his contract with Interserve Industrial Services ended.

As a result of his injury, other local employers refused to take him on because the accident had severely reduced his mobility and, in turn, his capability to do the job.

Barry contacted Unite Legal Services who instructed serious injury specialists, Thompsons Solicitors, to pursue a claim of compensation on his behalf.

Thompsons’ investigations found that Barry’s employers failed to enforce a safe system of work, given that both Barry and his colleague who dropped the scaffolding pole were working at height. Thompsons also claimed that Interserve Industrial Services were accountable for Barry’s injury because of the negligent actions of another employee – known as vicarious liability.

Following negotiations with Interserve Industrial Services, Thompsons Solicitors and Unite Legal Services secured £150,000 in compensation for Barry.

Barry said: “The accident has completely changed my life; I can’t move my neck or back the same way I could before and I had to leave the job I loved. I haven’t been able to find alternative employment as a welder because I’m so restricted with what I’m actually able to do.

“When you’re victim of a serious injury you need all the help and support you can get, to say I’m relieved I had the backing of UNITE and Thompsons Solicitors is an understatement. After my accident, my colleagues saw how well I was looked after by my trade union and even became members as result.”

Mick Whitley, North West regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “This is a fantastic settlement for one of our members, which shows the level of expert legal support our members can expect as part of their membership to Unite the Union.

“Barry is a well-known and respected tradesman and it is really frustrating to hear that, because of his accident, he now cannot find employment in his profession. Barry’s working life was cut short by carelessness, an unsafe system of work, and Interserve were forced to pay out because ultimately they are responsible for their employee’s negligent actions.”