Employee Awarded £800K After Company Failed to Identify Health and Safety Risk of Work Trip

A former site systems engineer at Primetals Technologies has won £800k after his employer failed to comply with its health and safety obligations. Due to their failure, the ex-employee underwent two major surgeries, resulting in his large bowel being removed. Below, we explore what happened and how the employer should have handled the employee’s medical condition correctly.

Reasonable adjustments must be made when an employer knows or ought to have known about an employee’s disability. If you believe you haven’t received the adjustments you’re entitled to, contact Redmans Solicitors today. We are employment law specialists and can discuss your case before assessing your possible next steps.

To begin:

Health and Safety Failures Following Crohn’s Disease Surgery

Engineer Sent to India Just Months After Sick Leave

Martin Smith, 62, was a site systems engineer who had worked for Primetals Technologies for over 30 years. When asked to go on a work trip to India in April 2019, he had only returned to work part-time, working from home, three months prior. Before this, he had been absent due to ill health, primarily caused by his previously diagnosed Crohn’s disease.

Having worked in several parts of the globe, Martin Smith had considerable knowledge of travelling. As such, he took every health and safety precaution possible to protect his welfare. This included exclusively drinking bottled water and eating food prepared at his compound’s canteen.

Health and Safety Precautions Not Enough

Unfortunately, this was deemed insufficient, as he became extremely ill just a few days into his trip. His symptoms included sickness, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps. Yet, despite the severe nature of his illness, no treatment was provided to him on-site.

Consequently, Martin Smith returned home to receive the specialist treatment he thought he required. Following examination, his doctors at Poole Hospital informed him he’d contracted an infection that had caused a Crohn’s flare-up. 

Ineffective Crohn’s Disease Medication Leads to Surgery

Despite receiving Crohn’s disease treatment in an attempt to improve his condition, he deteriorated over the following weeks. As a result, he underwent two complex surgeries, ultimately having his large bowel removed in May 2019.

Following the life-altering events, the former site systems engineer was referred to professional legal help by his union. His legal team argued that his employer had failed to identify and eliminate the health and safety risks associated with his condition. 

Primetals Technologies tried to deny their liability, but they were unsuccessful in their appeals. This resulted in Martin Smith successfully claiming £800k in compensation, reflecting his loss of earnings and future medical care requirements.

Martin Smith Reflects on His Ordeal

After the decision, Martin Smith discussed the implications of the health and safety failures and Crohn’s disease surgery. He spoke about the difficulties of accepting the events and their impact on his life. This included being unable to do his beloved job and requiring round-the-clock care to deal with the aftermath of his Crohn’s flare-up.

Additionally, he displayed disappointment with how his employer had treated him following decades of service. He said, “I worked for Primetals Technologies for more than 30 years… [and] helped contribute to the business’s success. But when I needed their help and support, I was hung out to dry”.

Reasonable Adjustments for Employees with Crohn’s Disease

In the health and safety case above, the employee had Crohn’s disease. This is an inflammatory bowel condition that remains with the individual for the rest of their life. Despite not being fatal, measures can be taken to reduce its symptoms, which include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fatigue.

Furthermore, employment law stipulates actions employers are obligated to take to mitigate an employee’s disadvantages due to their disability. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable adjustments for employees when they knew or would have been reasonably expected to know they were disabled.

The legislation defines disability as an impairment that substantially and negatively impacts an individual’s day-to-day abilities in the long term. Therefore, if an employee’s condition meets the act’s definition, the employer must make reasonable adjustments. Such adjustments for Crohn’s disease could include:

  • Allowing the employee to take regular toilet breaks
  • Offering work-from-home options
  • Allocating shorter shifts with consistent shift patterns

Contact us now if you have experienced something similar to the health and safety case. Redmans Solicitors are specialists in the employment law sector and could assess your eligibility to claim compensation. Contact us today by: