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Student suffered foot crush injury during temporary warehouse role

A student who suffered a foot crush injury while working as a temporary warehouse assistant was left unable to walk for several months.

Posted on 09 January 2024

The student, who we have called Adam, suffered the injury when he was made to unload a damaged pallet of heavy goods without having been given the required manual handling training.

Adam, who was then aged 20, was working over his university summer break in 2021 when the incident occurred. He was employed by a logistics company on a “casual basis” to provide help with moving goods in their busy warehouse and was paid cash in hand. 

Employers are required to protect employees and to avoid, assess, and reduce the risk of injury so far as is reasonably practicable, including manual handling in the workplace. Adam received no training about the occupational health and safety risks involved in his role despite being required to move many heavy items on a daily basis.

Two days before Adam’s injury occurred, a warehouse colleague had been injured when goods had arrived on a damaged pallet within a shipping container. The damaged pallet had collapsed and the goods had fallen on to his colleague’s leg, and as a result the transfer  process was paused.

Two days later, Adam was instructed to carry on with the task that had been paused. His supervisor instructed him to unload the pallet of heavy goods, alone and unaided, in the knowledge that Adam had received no manual handling training.

Adam voiced his concerns, but the instruction was repeated and Adam was informed that there was now time pressure, and the container had to be cleared for re-use later that day.

Adam struggled to move the heavy goods alone by hand. His supervisor suggested that he lift and prop the remaining stack of goods with his bodyweight against the side of the container, whilst a colleague used a forklift truck to remove them to speed up the process.

The goods were balanced precariously and started to slip due to their considerable weight. Adam was unable to stop this and the load landed on his foot, causing him a crush injury.

His colleagues lifted the goods from his foot whilst he endured considerable pain.

Adam was unable to stand or walk, yet his employer offered no first-aid. Adam resorted to phoning a relative to collect him and take him to hospital. He was diagnosed with a complex injury to the foot, including several fractures and a Lisfranc fracture (a serious fracture to the Lisfranc joint on top of the foot). He underwent emergency surgery to insert metalwork to stabilise the bones.

Adam was unable to walk for several months whilst he recovered and underwent extensive rehabilitation, meaning he could not continue working during the summer break or go on holiday. To make matters worse, he received no sickness wages from his employer following the incident and was uncertain about whether he would be well enough to resume university in the Autumn.

Adam turned to law firm Leigh Day to bring a case for injury, lost income and associated expenses.

Despite the clearly dangerous system and lack of training, Adam’s employer’s insurers sought to deny any legal responsibility. They argued that at no point would an employee ever have been instructed to unload such goods alone and by hand and that Adam had not reported the incident to them, suggesting that Adam was providing a dishonest account despite several employees witnessing the incident directly.

They also suggested that Adam’s foot injury had been caused in an earlier separate incident at a beach. Adam accepted that he had sustained a minor injury to the same foot at a beach a month previously, causing bruising which had healed within just two days. These symptoms differed significantly from the crush injury that had now left him immobile and needing surgery.

The employer’s insurance company eventually conceded a breach of duty.

Evidence was obtained from a foot and ankle surgeon which demonstrated that despite the extensive orthopaedic injuries Adam had suffered and his long journey through rehabilitation, he had made a good physical recovery. However, Adam would be unlikely to return to full sporting activities.

Leigh Day personal injury partner Ross Whalley helped Adam to issue Court proceedings to resolve his case for a settlement sum that reflected the prognosis, future risks and lost income. The five-figure settlement will allow him to move on forward with his life and university studies.

Following settlement, Adam said: 

"I would absolutely recommend Leigh Day. I conversed with Ross Whalley over the course of my case who helped me through every step explaining in detail what was required as well as making sure I was informed about everything that was going on behind the scenes. He was very thorough and understanding and I’m really pleased with the whole experience, thank you.”

Ross Whalley said:

“This incident has had a major impact on numerous areas of Adam’s life, including his work, academic, and social life, and it could have been entirely avoided had Adam received the required training from his employers or if they had listened to his concerns following his colleague’s similar injury just a couple of days prior. This case should serve as a lesson to errant employers that there is no such thing as being employed on a ‘casual basis’ as far as occupational health and safety is concerned.”

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 

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