Personal injury at work blinds welder

A welder was left blinded and partially paralysed after he was hit by a metal sheet that weighed five and a half tonnes whilst at work. The sheet was being moved in a tandem lift but swung out of position. He underwent a 19 hour operation and spent two months in hospital. As a result of the accident, he has been left blind and paralysed down the left side of his body. He has also lost his sense of smell and may need care for the rest of his life.

The welder had been using the designated walkway at the time of the accident but his employer initially refused to accept liability. However, a court ruled that the company he worked for was fully liable for the accident and that he was entitled to compensation. It was found that a number of regulations had been breached. There was not proper supervision of the lift in place and no risk assessment had been carried out. The compensation payment that the welder will receive is now being calculated.

The payment will take into account the level of care that he will need for the rest of his life. This is just one example of personal injury at work.

Another accident affecting the eyes happened in December 2010 when a 19 year old construction worker was instructed to prise up floorboards with a pick axe but was not provided with safety goggles. A splinter hit him in the left eye, blinding him in that eye. The company was fined £8,000 by the HSE and ordered to pay £4,000 costs. The worker does not want to return to working in construction because he fears for his safety.

The number of reported cases of personal injury at work has decreased over several years. However, the 2009/10 statistics indicate that, in the course of that year, there were 152 fatal injuries, 27,096 major injuries and 123,519 over three day injuries (that is when a worker needs to take off more than 3 days from work because of their injury). This demonstrates that there still continues to be a large number of people seriously injured at work. Other less serious injuries are often not reported to the HSE so it is difficult to build a picture as to how common they are.

The eyes are extremely complicated and delicate. An eye is made up of many different components, including the cornea which is transparent. The cornea is made up of five different layers. If an injury does not penetrate the Bowman’s membrane, which is the second layer, it is classified as ‘superficial’ and may heal in a couple of days. Scratches or grazes to the cornea (also known as corneal abrasions) affect about 3 in 1,000 people every year in the UK.

There is a higher risk of injury to the eye in manual occupations such as construction where foreign objects can enter the eyes if they are not suitably protected. A blow to the eye may also cause considerable damage.

Employers have a legal responsibility to take steps to protect their workers from all types of injury. If they fail to do this, they may be considered liable if an injury occurs.


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