Man loses fingers in factory accident: Company ordered to pay him GH¢4m compensation

The Fast Track High Court in Accra has ordered an Indian company to pay GH¢4,417,600 to a 21-year-old man for negligently causing him to lose his 10 fingers in an accident while in the employment of the company.

The company, B5 Plus Company Limited, was also directed to pay an additional $30,000 to the victim, Julius Sylvester Bortey Alabi, to be used to fit prosthetic fingers.

A cost of GH¢100,000 was also granted in favour of the plaintiff, who lost all his 10 fingers due to what the court noted as his employer’s failure to provide him with protective clothing to work with.

The court ordered that the damages should be put in an investment account or invested in treasury bills on behalf of the victim.

Joined to the suit were Mr Dee Jay and another whose name was given only as Mr Pareesh, both directors of the company.

According to the court, the plaintiff succeeded in establishing his case to the satisfaction of the court.

‘Julius has suffered pain, acute deformed body/hands, physical incapacitation and loss of amenities etc.

‘The permanent disfigurement and incapacity shall continue to haunt him and deprive him of engaging in so many field activities as a schoolboy or young man,’ the presiding judge, Mr Justice Bright Mensah, held in his judgement.

Background
Alabi was 18 years old and had completed junior high school (JHS), when he was engaged by the defendants as a casual worker for a monthly salary of GH¢130.

His engagement commenced on June 4, 2012, but he suffered the serious accident less than a week into his employment.

Per his schedule of work, Alabi was assigned to count and write down the quantity of roofing sheets produced in the factory by the company.

However, on that fateful day, he was directed by his employers to pull out a roofing sheet stuck in a machine and in the process, Dee Jay pressed a red button which reversed the operation of the machine.

As a result of that action, the machine rather pulled both hands of Alabi causing him severe injury.

He was hospitalised for three months at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

Alabi, whose employers neglected him after he was discharged from the hospital, lost his father a day after the accident.

It also emerged in court that Pareesh was Alabi’s supervisor, while Dee Jay was the operator of the roller machine that severed Alabi’s fingers.

Degree of incapacitation
Alabi, per the court’s records, cannot button his shirt or iron his clothes unless someone does it for him. He can only eat with a spoon.

His uncle has been responsible for his upkeep with the engagement of a caregiver who charges GH¢200 a month.

‘I find that apart from the defendants settling the plaintiff’s medical bills while he was on admission at the hospitals, all other expenses were borne by Julius’s uncle, Mr Michael Borlabi,’ the court held.

Negligence
The court said it was abundantly clear from the evidence adduced that ‘the accident occurred due to the negligence of the defendants. I do hold in the instant case that the defendants were negligent in not providing prior training for Julius Alabi before commencement of work.

‘He was not given any formal training neither was he given protective gadgets to work with except torn gloves.

‘By operation of law, an employer shall supply all the necessary and protective gadgets to its employees. In the opinion of this court, it is more crucial particularly where the worker is engaged in a factory where the process of manufacturing involves exposure to wet or any injurious or offensive substance,’ the court opined.

Overwhelming evidence
According to the court, it was also clear that Pareesh instructed Alabi to pull out the roofing sheet without giving him any prior training.

‘Critically, there is also that unchallenged evidence of the plaintiff that when his hands were pulled into the machine and he started screaming, all those around him ran away.

‘It was until a worker from another machine came to his rescue by reversing the machine that brought out his hands,’ the court held.

According to the court, the defendants failed to rebut material evidence led in court to prove the case of the plaintiff.

‘Having regard to this state of affairs, it is my judgement that Julius Sylvester Bortey Alabi is entitled to damages that would restore him to the position he was before this unfortunate accident,’ the court said.

Appeal
Meanwhile, the defendants have appealed the court’s judgement and applied for a stay of execution of the decision.

Hearing of the application has been fixed for today.

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