Unite Legal Services secures compensation for former council plumber

Alan Reed developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), also known as Vibration White Finger, after working at Wansbeck District Council for nearly 40 years. He was using heavy electrical and pneumatic vibrating tools on a daily basis during his employment with the council and later with Bernica Group Limited. 

In around 2010, about two years after Alan’s employment was transferred to Bernica, safety measures were introduced. This meant that Alan and his colleagues would only be spending a limited amount of time working with vibrating machinery. However, the damage had already been done. 

Alan first started to notice tingling and numbness in his left hand about 10 years ago. His symptoms worsened and he found that he was struggling to carry out fiddly tasks such as doing up buttons. Following a medical examination, he was diagnosed with HAVS. 

After seeking support from his trade union, Unite Legal Services won compensation from Alan’s former employer on his behalf. 

Alan said: “At first I was a bit wary about pursuing a personal injury claim, as I had never done anything like that before in all my working life and didn’t know what to expect. But the process was made extremely straightforward. 

“Of course, you hope you never have to do anything like this, but if you do have problems at work it’s fantastic to be able to access the support you need. 

“Although I retired part way through my claim, I kept up my retirement membership, and so I was able to continue to get the help I needed through Unite Legal Services. It could not really have gone better.” 

Karen Reay, Unite regional secretary for Yorkshire, North East and Humberside, said: “Alan was exposed to dangerous levels of vibration through no fault of his own. Sadly, some employers are still failing to properly protect their workers. 

“Unite Legal Services is proud to continue to hold negligent employers to account, as well as campaigning to protect workers from the risks of exposure to vibrating machinery in today’s workplaces.”