Member compensated £50,000 for back injury

A former plasterer who strained his back after slipping in his work truck has received £50,000 compensation with the help of Unite Legal Services.

Kenneth Berkeley, 67, who was employed as a plasterer by a property management company was collecting tools from the open back of a tipper truck – supplied by his employer - when he slipped on its wet surface and fell. In the fall he suffered a strain injury to his back.

He had previously been supplied with a closed van for his tools, but before the accident he was told to use a tipper truck instead, which had an exposed storage area with no protection from the weather. It was used to transport waste materials and in which he also had to keep his tools.

After the fall he went to hospital where he had injections in his spine to ease the pain. The injury meant that Kenneth couldn’t return to work, and three years on he continues to struggle with physical activity.

He contacted Unite Legal Services to investigate a compensation claim.

Kenneth said: “I’d been using my old van for years before it was allocated to another worker, which was really disruptive because the tipper truck was difficult to use.

“Incredibly, looking back now it even had a ‘do not enter’ sign on the trailer because of its slippery floor but I had no choice – I had to store my tools in the back. The only other choice would have been to have the tools in the cab with me, which would have been incredibly dangerous driving around. My employer knew all this and wouldn’t listen when I raised my concerns with them about it.

“Although it is frustrating that my career ended so abruptly, the support I’ve had from Unite Legal Services means that I have funds to support me in my retirement.”

Peter Kavanagh, London and Eastern regional secretary from Unite the Union, said: “Our member was given a vehicle that was not fit for purpose to carry out his work. Poor weather conditions and a build-up of debris meant it was only a matter of time before Kenneth fell.

“Employers have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment and should always take into account the practicality of equipment supplied for different jobs. Not only did this employer fail to do this, but it ignored Kenneth’s concerns on numerous occasions which ultimately left him with an injury that put an end to his career.

“Because Kenneth is a member of Unite, we were able to provide him with free support and access to legal expertise, meaning that he was fully compensated for his injury.”