Bus driver suffers hand burns in accident at work

A bus driver from Sheffield has been awarded more than £2,300 in compensation after suffering burns to his hand following an accident at work.

Unite member, Mr Smithers, decided to visit the staff canteen after his shift had finished. He requested a polystyrene cup in which he placed menthol crystals for his cold and asked for the cup to be filled with hot water.

As he walked away, the cup started to disintegrate, causing the hot water to scald his hand. His hand and fingers blistered leading to paramedics having to attend the scene, referring 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 was given a tetanus injection and prescribed painkillers. Mr Smithers had to continue visiting hospital to have his dressings changed on a regular basis and eventually made a full recovery two to three months later. However, he 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., who claimed that the accident was caused by employees at the franchised staff canteen by providing a cup which was not suitable for purpose, or directly by Mr Smithers himself.

The franchised canteen staff 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.

Unite Legal Services argued in court 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 initial difficulties, First South Yorkshire was ordered to pay Mr Smithers costs, as well as the franchised canteen staff’s costs. The judge determined that the cup was work equipment and that the accident occurred during the course of Mr Smithers’ employment while in his workplace.

Mr Smithers 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 its 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.”