Health & safety failing | Worker who had bowel removed after dangerous work trip awarded £800k

Worker who had bowel removed after dangerous work trip awarded £800k

Martin Smith, a 62-year-old former employee of Primetals Technologies Ltd, has been awarded £800,000 in compensation after he had to undergo two major surgeries and have a stoma bag following a work trip to India.

Smith, who had previously been diagnosed with Crohn's disease, was asked by his employer to undertake a week-long work trip to India, just three months after returning to work part-time and working from home due to his medical condition.

Despite taking safety precautions during the trip, Smith fell extremely ill with abdominal cramps, sickness and diarrhea. He received no treatment on-site and was compelled to return to the UK due to the severity of his illness.

Upon examination at Poole Hospital, doctors discovered that Smith had been exposed to an infection that triggered a flare-up of his Crohn's disease.

This led to a series of medical complications, culminating in the removal of his large bowel in May 2019.

Reflecting on his ordeal, Smith expressed his anguish, stating: "I worked for Primetals Technologies Ltd for more than 30 years, travelling all over the world and delivering on projects that helped contribute to the business's success.

"My whole world had imploded... When I needed their help and support, I was hung out to dry."

He emphasised the significant impact the incident has had on his life, including his inability to continue his job and the constant need for care and treatment to manage his condition.

Smith's case was brought to light by his union, Unite, which referred him to Thompsons Solicitors to investigate whether more could have been done to prevent his harm.

Despite the company denying liability, Smith's legal team secured an £800,000 compensation care package.

Speaking to The Mirror, Solicitor Neil Richards underscored the importance of employers prioritising the health and safety of their employees, especially when sending them abroad for work.

"This case highlights the need for employers who send staff members overseas to consider the wider health and safety implications.

It's simply not enough to take an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach. In this case, Mr Smith's employer was fully aware of his pre-existing medical condition and how this would impact his situation were he to become ill in a remote part of India.

He emphasised that employers must carefully consider the risks associated with such assignments and take reasonable steps to alleviate them.

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"The case also demonstrated the importance of employers carefully considering the risks they are exposing their workforce to and then taking reasonable steps to mitigate against them.

The case serves as a stark reminder of the obligations companies have towards their workforce, particularly concerning employees with existing health conditions.

The British Safety Council notes that all employers must be aware of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which is the principal piece of legislation for occupational health and safety in Great Britain.

HASAWA 1974 requires that workplaces provide:

  • Adequate training of staff to ensure health and safety procedures are understood and adhered to

  • Adequate welfare provisions for staff at work

  • A safe working environment that is properly maintained and where operations within it are conducted safely

  • Suitable provision of relevant information, instruction and supervision

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