Heavy recycling work caused hernia

A UK employee of a global metals recycling giant needed surgery to correct a hernia which could have been avoided if the company had undertaken and acted on a simple risk assessment.

Andrew Kelly, 47, needed the major surgery after moving several objects weighing up to 40kg during an eight-hour shift. The yard supervisor for global recycling giant Sims Group UK, who has worked for the firm for 31 years, was unable to access lifting equipment when instructed to move heavy objects like lorry batteries and fridge motors to various parts of the yard for collection.

He said: “I knew that it would take me several weeks to recover from the operation so contacted the union because I was worried about what it would mean for me and my family financially.” He added: “The hernia was painful and it slowed me down a lot. I wasn’t able to lift and found walking difficult. Since the operation I have been able to return to work but I still suffer from some discomfort.”

Thompsons Solicitors, the law firm brought in by Mr Kelly’s union, GMB, to handle a compensation case, argued the Sims Group, part of the worldwide Sims Metal Management group, should have risk assessed the task and provided either equipment to move the objects or assistance from other employees. Mr Kelly has now received an undisclosed sum in compensation from the firm.

Andy Worth from the GMB said: “Long established employers like these really have no excuse not to think ahead when they ask employees to lift heavy weights with no help. Mr Kelly’s losses and pain lie at their door when a simple risk assessment could easily have avoided the accident.”

The company’s safety record has been called into question recently. Sims Group UK has been prosecuted twice by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in last three years for criminal breaches of safety law, the latest in April 2010 following a workplace death and resulting in a six figure fine.

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