We acted for Mr J who joined a printing company near Maidstone after 30 years of printing experience.
Senior printers, who were due to retire, instructed Mr J how to use the FASTO printer, which was a machine he had not used previously. As part of the process of setting up a job, the operative was required to turn adjustment handles which altered the alignment of the print. There were adjustment handles on both side of the machine. The handles were connected by a link bar (which at the end of a job, allowed the operative to wind the print unit back evenly in order to remove the print rollers). The link bar had locking handles which were meant to allow the operative to fix the link bar in place. Thus the operative was meant to be able to adjust one handle without the link bar and opposite adjustment handle moving. Mr J was told that on this machine the locking handles did not work properly (meaning the link bar would move) and that he would therefore have to correct the adjustment handle with one hand whilst holding the link bar in place with the other.
It was Mr J’s case that this had become standard practice by the time he started and he was also encouraged to work in that manner by other colleagues.
On the day of the accident Mr J was doing a particularly intricate job on the FASTO printer which involved ensuring that the bar codes being printed were perfectly aligned. Whilst making the adjustments, rather than looking at the link bar and handle he was operating he had a look at the paper alignment above him. Whilst looking at the paper alignment, he reached up and towards the link bar with his left hand in order to hold it in place. However, his hand missed it, he reached a little too far, and his fingers were pulled between the “in running nip” between the rollers.
He was taken to Accident and Emergency where he underwent surgery involving debridement and washout and terminisation of his left index, left middle and left ring fingers.
A Health and Safety Executive investigation took place and identified a number of health and safety breaches.
We were instructed but, notwithstanding the HSE’s criticisms of the defendant’s working practices, the defendant surprisingly denied liability.
The defendant alleged that Mr J was in fact cleaning the machine at the time of the accident, which was wholly inconsistent with all the known facts of the case, and as a fall back, that he was contributorily negligent by the order of 50%.
We believed Mr J’s account of the accident, which was consistent with the known facts and supported by witness evidence, and rejected the allegation that he was contributorily negligent as momentary inadvertence is never contributory negligence.
Court proceedings were issued but, prior to service, we negotiated a full liability settlement of £80,000 notwithstanding the defendant’s ongoing denial.