Piotr had worked for a supply company for 3 years. The hours were long, the work was hard and the pay was ok. Piotr didn’t mind the hard work or the long hours.
It was wet, windy, and cold when Piotr arrived with his lorry in the unloading bay in Galway City centre at 6am. Piotr had started work at 2am and had driven from Dublin with the consignment of goods. This was his only drop off of the day.
There were 20 pallets in the trailer. When he arrived at the shop, they were only able to accept 10 of them, due to space restrictions. Piotr began to move the pallets onto the tail lift. He lowered the tail lift and the staff took the pallets from him. As he was trying to remove the 9th pallet, he was unable to do so. It had been extremely badly loaded and was leaning to one side. As he pulled the pallet back, he slipped and fell. The tail lift was not up at the back and Piotr fell down onto his left elbow. He was in huge pain lying down on the ground. He was taken Galway Hospital and was diagnosed with a fractured left elbow.
Piotr’s manager drove from Dublin with a new driver and collected him from the hospital. He was then told to go back to where the accident happened and to point out exactly what had gone wrong. This was in spite of the fact that he was in huge pain. He was also asked to fill out an accident report form on the spot. Piotr was unable to work for 4 months. When he was off work, he received a letter from his employer to attend a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing he was told that he had breached written procedures for unloading pallets, in particular, the store personnel should not have been near the tail lift and the tail lift should have been up. Piotr said that despite having signed the forms, the other drivers have always unloaded the pallets in this fashion. The store workers always helped as well.
Piotr was worried that he was not entitled to make a claim because he was in the wrong in unloading the pallets. I stressed to Piotr that the pallets were badly loaded, and that the accident was the fault of the company in loading the pallets. I stressed to Piotr that the disciplinary action by the company was entirely separate to making a claim. The company are not entitled to fire or penalise you for making a claim.
I also asked Piotr whether he wanted to continue working with this company. He said to me that he did not like this company and had in fact been looking for another job. I advised him that regardless of the outcome of the disciplinary hearing that he would find a better job working for better people.
Ultimately the disciplinary hearing issued him with a verbal warning. I sent details of the system of work including photographs to a consulting engineer. He confirmed to me that the system of work was unsafe.
The matter has now been lodged in PIAB and is awaiting confirmation as to whether it will be accepted in or not.
Under the revised guidelines, Piotr can expect to receive €15,000.
The above story is true. However, the names of the people involved and the locations have been changed to protect their privacy.
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