Bus driver suffers burns in accident at work

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A bus driver has been awarded compensation after suffering burns to his hand following an accident at work.

Unite member Mr Smithers, who worked as a bus driver in Sheffield, visited the staff canteen following his shift in January 2012. His hand was scalded with hot water, when a polystyrene cup in which he had placed menthol crystals for his cold, started to disintegrate.

His hand and fingers blistered and paramedics attended the scene and referred Mr Smithers to the Burns Unit at Northern General Hospital.

Doctors diagnosed Mr Smithers as having suffered burns to his hand and fingers. His hand was dressed and he had to continue visiting hospital to have his dressings changed on a regular basis. He made a full recovery in 2-3 months, however, has been left with a permanent scar.

Mr Smithers contacted Unite Legal Services who investigated a claim for compensation on his behalf. Liability was denied by the employer, First South Yorkshire Ltd (First Defendant). They claimed that the accident was caused by the employees at the franchised staff canteen (Second Defendant), by providing a cup which was not suitable for purpose, or directly by Mr Smithers himself.

The Second Defendant also denied liability stating that no-one could have been expected to foresee the effect that the crystals would have on the polystyrene cup and that it would have been difficult to prevent the accident from happening.

The case went to Court and Unite Legal Services argued that the accident was caused by First South Yorkshire’s breach of statutory duty and the negligence of the staff at the canteen. Although there were some difficult hurdles to overcome, the case succeeded against First South Yorkshire and in addition to being ordered to pay Mr Smithers costs, they were also ordered to pay the Second Defendant’s costs. The Judge determined that the cup was work equipment and that the accident occurred during the course of Mr Smithers employment whilst in his workplace.

Mr Smithers was awarded £2,332.36 in compensation.

He said: “Thanks to the support of Unite Legal Services I have now received adequate compensation for this accident and my employer has been forced to change their working practices.”

Karen Reay, regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “This accident should never have happened but through membership of Unite the Union, we were able to make sure that our member was expertly represented, which resulted in a positive outcome.”


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