A father-of-four who had a finger and thumb amputated following a workplace accident in Dunstable has called on employers to ensure they uphold health and safety standards.
William Mortimer, from St Albans, was undertaking his job manufacturing refuse chutes at Hardall International Limited when a site worker used a nearby workbench to remove strips of metal from a door using an angle grinder.
While the 61-year-old, known as Billy, was standing about 8ft away using a rolling machine, he became concerned when sparks from the angle grinder reached him and several pieces of metal struck the side of his face.
The issues caused his right hand to be pulled into the rolling machine up to his wrist. Despite being rushed to hospital for treatment, Billy’s injuries proved so severe he needed to have his right index finger and thumb amputated. He is unlikely to be able to return to his old job again.
Following the incident on March 1, 2018, Billy instructed specialist workplace injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help him access specialist care and rehabilitation.
Hardall International admitted liability for his injuries and a separate Health and Safety Executive investigation also found six material breaches of health and safety laws at the company’s site in Ludun Close, Dunstable.
Billy has now joined his legal team at Irwin Mitchell in urging companies to always ensure that the safety of workers comes first.
Natasha Fairs, the specialist workplace injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing Billy, said: “This is a truly devastating example of the impact that workplace accidents can have on employees, with Billy suffering injuries which will have a significant effect on the rest of his life.
“While we have secured an admission of primary liability from Hardall International Limited regarding the incident, we are now focused on helping Billy access the specialist support he needs.
“A case of this nature is undoubtedly an important reminder of the importance for businesses to uphold health and safety standards at all times. The safety of workers should always be a priority.”
Looking back, Billy said: “I remember the day so well. They asked me if they could use the workbench. I suggested that he used a plasma cutter as this would produce a better finish and could be used outside.
“He proceeded with the angle grinder. It generated so many sparks. I was horrified when I realised that my hand had entered the machine and I went into total shock.”
Billy was taken to Luton and Dunstable Hospital and then transferred to Lister Hospital for further treatment and plastic surgery support. As well as undertaking the amputations, doctors also had to re-attach his right middle finger.
He said: “Since my injury, I needed help with so many things. I couldn’t wash the left side of my body or my hair. I couldn’t make a can of soup for myself, but spill it all down me when I am trying to open it.
“I’ve been very reliant on my family for support, with Maggie having to do a huge amount around the home and others having to drive me to regular appointments and to hand therapy. I am in constant pain, as well as psychological issues like flashbacks and nightmares.
“While nothing will change what has happened, I truly hope that lessons can be learned from my story so that no one else faces this nightmare.”
Following the incident, the Health and Safety Executive investigated and noted six breaches of health and safety law, including that the system of work used by the company did not keep workers’ hands away from dangerous parts of the rolling machine.
Hardall International was unable to comment before deadline.