Ironworks employee who had thumb amputated in accident won't be compensated due to Brexit, boss claims
PUBLISHED: 13:00 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 07:53 06 March 2019
An ironworks owner has claimed he cannot pay compensation to an ex-employee who had a thumb amputated after an accident at work as Brexit has forced the business to close.
Edward Flitton owns and runs Hever Ironworks in Stalham.
On Valentine’s Day, 2017, one of the four employees at the ironworks was operating a drill when the heavy duty gloves she was wearing became entangled in the machinery.
Despite 86 hospital visits and lengthy spells in surgery it was not possible to save the thumb, Norwich Crown Court heard on Tuesday.
Flitton admitted failing to discharge his duty to protect the health and safety of his employees, failing to report the accident and failing to put in place liability insurance.
It meant his employee could not pursue a claim against him in the civil courts.
And giving evidence on Tuesday, Flitton claimed his business will have to close next month after accruing £21,000 of debts as orders have “fallen off a cliff” due to Brexit.
In recent years the company had made between £6,000 and £10,000 profit annually.
“The bank has lost confidence in the business because of the downturn in income and they are not honouring any finance,” Flitton, 60, told the court.
“Since May it has been in decline and in the last few weeks the orders have just fallen off a cliff. It is what everyone says about Brexit.
“We should sell £500 worth a week to wipe our face, and sales the week before last were £30.
“The overseas market probably accounts for 30pc but in the last few weeks the exports have virtually stopped. Nobody is going to buy anything which they think might end up stuck in a warehouse somewhere.
“Rent is due next month and I don’t have it, so I shall have to give notice on the premises and clear out.
“There is no point in carrying on a business that is losing money. I would just end up deeper in debt.”
Judge Katharine Moore told Flitton he “richly deserves” to be forced to pay compensation to the former employee, but she could not make an order if he has nothing to pay.
“You have displayed a cavalier approach to the health and safety of your employees,” she told Flitton. “You were motivated by self interest and a lack of due regard to your employees.
“You claim the business is about to come to an end, and through your failings you leave [the employee] with no obvious remedy.”
She added the former employee had still not been able to work and is now suffering from depression.
“It was as a consequence of the way in which you failed to manage the risk upon her,” she said.
“The injury was significant. In short, despite lengthy spells in surgery it has not been possible to save the thumb.
“She has endured 86 visits to hospital and significant pain, distress and limitation of her day to day activities.”
She told Flitton he had “exposed his workers to a risk of harm”.
“While you may consider gloves may form some protection you did not consider entanglement,” she said. “She was never told not to hold castings or wear gloves. On the contrary, she was told to wear heavy duty gloves, totally unsuitable for the work she was doing.
“You yourself had not appreciated the risks. The HSE takes the view wearing gloves renders your system of work unsafe.
“This exposed your workers to a risk of harm. It is all the more serious because you didn’t hold the compulsory insurance which would have enabled her to receive recompense.”
Flitton, of Union Road, Smallburgh, was given a 12-month community order with 120 hours of unpaid work, and handed a £300 fine.