Production worker's diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome

Over the course of her employment, as a production worker for Tunnocks, our client developed carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and trigger thumb, a condition which made it extremely difficult for her to flex her thumb.

Her work involved moving around a conveyer belt as tea cakes were delivered to four different machines. Our client worked at different points around the belt and feed the cakes into the machines. Her fingers and wrists were constantly in use, bending and flexing. She worked at the conveyor belt for approximately three hours a day. Her other duties included packing boxes and cleaning the machines and work area.

Repeatedly moving the teacakes onto the machines eventually led to our client developing her painful condition.

The Consequences

In 2014, our client first experienced her symptoms. She began to notice her fingers were going numb. After her fingers had been numb for a few weeks, she visited her doctor, who confirmed she was suffering from CTS.

She was referred to hospital and given a splint for her hand, but this did not lead to any improvement in symptoms. The doctors also confirmed that her CTS had been caused by repetitive work and she needed to have operations on her hands. Because she could not afford to the take the time off for two separate operations, she had both hands operated on at the same time. The surgery left her with weakness in her wrists and she continued to experience adverse symptoms, such as her thumbs locking up.

Immediately after the surgery, she was off work from 6 May to 19 July. She was paid sick pay for some of this time but not all of it. This was because she'd already used up some of her sick leave allowance as a result of a serious illness.

Following the operations on her hands, our client required help around the house from her daughter as she was unable to use her hands.

Following our clients time off work as a result of her suffering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, her employer did not change the way production workers were instructed to operate the machinery. What's more, our client was aware of other workers at Tunnocks who had been diagnosed with CTS.

The Settlement

The production worker instructed Thompsons' solicitors through her union, Unite. We took a statement from her and learnt of her history with CTS and trigger thumb.

From her statement, we were confident that her employer had breached the Manual Handling Operations Regulations, particularly as we were aware of similar claims made against the employer. We were therefore confident of her chances of success and pressed forward by intimating a claim to her employer.

We also instructed an expert medical report from a consultant orthopaedic surgeon to assess the extent of the damage to our client's hands and wrists. However, the surgeon was unable to confirm that our client's condition had been caused by work, but he did agree that the condition had been aggravated by it. This information meant that the settlement sum would not be as high as it might have been.

The insurers acting on behalf of the employer did not respond with a settlement proposal, so we decided to take matters a step further. We raised court action in the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court. After continuing to apply pressure on the defender, they made a settlement offer of £1,500. Our client confirmed she was happy to accept this as compensation.

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