Can I claim compensation for RSI?
RSI compensation claim – Can I claim compensation for RSI?
I previously assisted a Lithuanian lady named Laima, who worked at a chicken processing factory near Norwich, in Eastern England.
Laima’s work involved cutting up chickens, on a production line.
She had to remove the legs, wings and breasts.
After doing this work for a couple of years, both her hands became extremely painful.
Laima visited a doctor, who confirmed she was suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.
The doctor also said she had epicondylitis in one arm.
As a result, Laima underwent two carpal tunnel release operations.
About the factory
There were roughly 200 workers at the factory.
The vast majority were foreigners, including many Lithuanians, Poles and Portuguese.
There were two shifts, an early shift and a late shift.
The company provided gloves and hats.
For cutting up the chickens, the company provided knives and scissors.
When Laima first started working at the factory, she was in the “packing shop”, which was where the chickens were packed.
After that, she was transferred to the “cutting shop”, where there was a production line for cutting up chickens.
About the production line
The production line consisted of a series of moving metal poles.
On each pole, a chicken was impaled.
This meant that the chickens moved past in a continuous moving line.
In Laima’s team were 6 workers. Each worker was required to remove one of the following parts only:
- Left wing
- Left breast
- Left leg
- Right wing
- Right breast
- Right leg
This meant that Laima spent 1 hour removing left wings only, followed by another hour removing right wings, and so on.
The production line was timed. The person removing (for example) left wings, was required to remove 20 left wings every minute, or 1 every 3 seconds.
The factory sold the processed chickens to large supermarkets, which would inspect regularly.
When these inspection visits took place, the factory would reduce the speed of the production line. But after the inspectors had gone, the speed would be increased again.
Fear at work
Laima’s supervisor was from Iraq.
If she and her fellow workers were not fast enough, then the supervisor would shout at them.
Sometimes Laima was permitted to chat with her fellow workers during her shift.
But on other occasions the Iraqi supervisor would make them work in silence, dependent upon his mood.
At the factory, the workers were watched constantly by CCTV cameras.
When Laima’s wrist pain first started, she told her superviser.
Surprisingly, the supervisor decided to punish Laima, by making her work without rotation.
Eventually Laima needed to take time off work. As a result, the company promised to provide alternative light duties.
But after she returned to work, Laima’s tasks were exactly the same as before.
Laima decided to return home to Lithuania for surgery. The company insisted that she should use her holiday entitlement to do so.
Despite her operations, Laima’s hands remained painful.
This made it difficult for her to do everyday tasks such as washing her hair, housework and so on.
Difficulties with RSI claims
Laima saw my website and contacted the interpreter, to explain the situation.
I have handled RSI compensation claims before, and they are always difficult. This is for two main reasons.
Firstly, if one worker on the production line makes a successful claim, then everybody else working there could do exactly the same.
As a result, factories always fight these kinds of claims very hard, to discourage anybody from starting a trend.
Secondly, it is necessary to get an independent medical report, confirming that the work caused the injury.
But without actually seeing the production line in operation, it is difficult for an independent medical expert to reach any firm conclusions.
Accordingly many RSI claims fail.
Clearly for Laima’s compensation claim to advance, we needed photographic evidence.
The difficulty was, with CCTV cameras installed in the workplace, any employees seen taking photographs would be in trouble.
We discussed how to get around these difficulties.
Laima’s husband was a skilled carpenter. He agreed to construct a mock production line in the couple’s back garden. This contained a series of metal poles, just like the real thing.
I then went to the supermarket with the interpreter, and we purchased 10 chickens.
We then returned to Laima’s house and impaled the chickens on the poles. Laima then dismembered each chicken, while I took a series of photographs, showing the sequence of wrist movements.
Laima also obtained a miniature camera. She took this to the factory, where she was able to film the production line secretly, without being observed.
Once our photographic evidence was complete, I arranged for Laima to attend a medical examination with an independent orthopaedic surgeon, specialising in hand injuries.
The orthopaedic surgeon also considered the medical records in detail.
His firm conclusion was that Laima’s injuries were definitely the result of her work at the factory.
We then started court proceedings.
About the legal claim
We put forward a compensation claim, and the factory denied everything.
But when they saw our photographic evidence, they expressed a willingness to settle.
An out of court was eventually achieved.
From what I have seen over the last few years, Laima’s situation is typical of how many Eastern European workers are treated in Britain.
At least Laima had the courage to fight back, and get compensation for her injuries.
RSI compensation claim, De Quervains tendonitis and epicondylitis.