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Construction worker suffers foot injury due to defective equipment

A construction worker whose foot was crushed while working on a building site has secured a six-figure settlement.

Posted on 01 February 2024

The worker, who we have called Robert, suffered the injury when he was instructed to move concrete blocks using a defective pallet truck without receiving any training.

Robert was walking with the truck when it failed to stop despite him pressing the emergency stop button, resulting in his foot being crushed against a wall.  

Then aged 45 with around 20 years of construction site experience, Robert was working at the site of a large new commercial building in central London when the incident happened. 

He was employed and instructed on site by a construction company, referred to as Company A, to help with general labouring. Company A hired a pallet truck from an equipment hire company, referred to as Company B, to be used for the movement of blocks and other heavy goods.  

Employers are required to protect employees from defective equipment by carrying out periodic inspections and repairs, which are likely to reduce the risk of injury from defective machinery. However, it was found that Company A had not completed inspections and maintenance while the vehicle was on site. 

Robert also alleged he received no training about the occupational health and safety risks involved in operating the equipment. 

He was reversing his first load on the pallet truck while turning with the intention of then moving the truck forwards to put the blocks down. He was wearing steel toe capped boots. 

As he reversed the pallet truck then failed to stop. Robert pressed the emergency stop button but, again, the pallet truck failed to respond and continued to reverse, trapping his left foot against a wall.

Robert was taken to the Royal London Hospital and diagnosed with five fractures to his foot. He underwent surgery to insert a metal plate to stabilise his large toe and wires to stabilise the next three toes, remaining in hospital for 11 days before being discharged and directed to use crutches and not to weight bear.  

He was unable to walk for many months whilst he recovered and underwent extensive rehabilitation. As he was a contractor, he received no sick pay and he was unable to return to work in the construction sector.   

Robert instructed Leigh Day to bring a case for injury, lost income and associated expenses.  

Evidence was secured confirming that the pallet truck was defective and that the controls were not responsive. The evidence indicated that the truck was not defective when it was first hired but had deteriorated because of misuse and a lack of inspection and maintenance whilst on site within the control of Company A.  

Company A’s insurance company eventually conceded a breach of duty but tried to hold Robert partially responsible for walking backwards with the pallet truck. Leigh Day pointed out that Robert had received no training in the safe use of the equipment, so wouldn’t have known the appropriate system of use.  

Evidence from a foot and ankle surgeon demonstrated that despite the surgery and rehabilitation, Robert was unlikely to return to work in the construction sector.  

As the case continued, and whilst Robert was without pay and struggling to afford his bills, Leigh Day secured a five-figure interim payment. This assisted Robert in paying his bills and enabled him to take a course to retrain as a HGV Driver.  

Robert was also secured physiotherapy and orthotics rehabilitation. He underwent further surgery to remove the metalwork in his foot 19 months after the incident.  

Leigh Day personal injury partner Ross Whalley helped Robert to resolve his case, securing a six-figure settlement which reflected the prognosis, future risks, and lost income.  

Ross Whalley said: 

“This incident had a major impact on Robert’s work, changing the course of his chosen career after 20 years. A career retrain is fraught with uncertainty and challenges, but Robert was very determined to not let this incident diminish his positive attitude.  

“This case should serve as a lesson to errant construction companies that there are more important yardsticks than meeting deadlines. Whether companies own equipment or hire it in, they have a duty to ensure that it is inspected regularly and maintained to remain safe for use. It should also go without saying that training workers how to use machinery safely remains a fundamental necessity.” 

Contact us 

For further guidance about work accident claims and personal injury claims, contact Ross Whalley on 0161 393 3570 or email rwhalley@leighday.co.uk.

Ross Whalley
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Ross Whalley

Ross Whalley is a partner in the personal injury department.

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