Accidents and Insurance

There is no doubt that the firm suffered from its share of industrial accidents, though whether these were out of line with other corresponding firms is unknown, as too few records exist. Except for two unfortunate tragic fatalities, the only records that survive are about ten years from 1929, during which time the firm joined the Workmen’s Compensation Insurance Scheme offered by the Iron Trades Employers’ Insurance Association Ltd. This scheme, paid into by the firm, covered accidental injuries to its employees sustained either in the factory, offices or for outworkers, on a customer site, which caused incapacitation, either temporarily or permanently. The injured person was paid, by his/her employer, a percentage of their weekly wage, as calculated by the Association. No compensation was payable for the first three days unless the person was off work for at least four weeks. Under the Workmen’s Compensation Acts, all compensation calculations were based upon a seven-day working week. The employee signed weekly for the receipt of their compensation and once the employee had either recovered or returned to work and the claim terminated, the firm submitted these receipts to the Association for reimbursement. The scheme also covered any legitimate legal, medical and associated travel costs, which were typically calculated at 20 per cent. of the gross premium.

The Iron Trades Employers’ Insurance Association Ltd., was founded in 1880, as a department of the old Iron Trades Employers’ Association in Manchester. Celebrating their Jubilee in 1930, the Association boasted that not only was it a “Mutual Company with the largest Workmen’s Compensation Premium Income, but one which had the largest Workmen’s Compensation Premium Income of any Company, Proprietary or otherwise[1].

The firm joined the scheme in 1923, initially paying a premium of 9s. 6d. per cent., for the non-management and clerical workers. Three years later, the premiums were increased with the management and clerical levied at 3s. 6d. per cent whilst the others went up 4s. per cent to 13s. 9d, where they remained until 1936.

In 1928, the firm was paying a yearly premium of £155 15s. 5d., for 191 workers, including 11 management and clerical staff[2]; 6 wood working machinists; 32 apprentices and youths; 142 others, incorporating foremen, furnace-men, heating engineers, machine workers, moulders, erectors, pattern makers, labourers, etc. The total annual wage bill for these 191 employees amounted to £22,402 (£2,340; £766; £1,641; £19,655 respectively).

By 1935, the number of employees had dropped to 173, which included 11 management and clerical staff; 4 wood working machinists; 35 apprentices and youths; 3 sub-contractors; 120 others. The total annual wage bill had also dropped to £21,036 (£2130; £550; £1,755; £500; £16,101 respectively).

These surviving records appear to show that the firm did indeed have a higher than expected number of accidents during this period, particularly in the first half of 1930s. A fact that the Association drew the firm’s attention to, in a letter dated 13th November 1936. They calculated that during the thirteen years upto 1936 the firm had paid £1,179 in net premiums but received £1,767 through claims. The Association had also calculated that over the five-year period from 1932, the cost for compensation alone, without any provision for legal medical and working expenses had been 19s. per cent. Taking the full thirteen years in account the cost had been 14s. 5d. per cent. Predictably, all the known accidents except one were to non-clerical workers, the exception was in December 1935, when Thomas Sidney Nash, was in his mid-70’s at the time and the brother-in-law to Walter Chapman Burder, slipped on some ice when leaving the firm’s offices. Whilst not seriously injured, he was off work for a short period and entitled to 30s. per week.

During 1932, there were seven claims, amounting to £393 14s. 2d., against a gross premium of £93. This was an exception as six of the seven claims amounted to only £30 17s. 6d., the remainder was paid to one recipient, Harry Barsby (see below). The following year, claims amounted to £48 (with an estimate of £35 against an outstanding claim) against a gross premium of £99; in 1934, £38 against £108; in 1935, £78 (£100) against £135; in 1936, £50 (£35) against £116. Overall this gave a total gross premium for the five years against claims of £608; in addition, there was an estimate of £170 of unsettled claims. However, this is a slightly misleading picture as the Association was a Mutual it returned a certain percentage of profits to its members each year. In 1930, the firm received a total return of 32½ per cent on its premium for the previous year. For the period between 1932 and 1936, the firm received returns totalling £166 (£28, £30, £32, £41 and £45, respectively), reducing the net premium to £385.

For the three years, 1929-31, the total claims amounted to £373 resulting in a net rate of 12s 1.d. per cent. If expenses of £72 ware added, the rate rose to 14s 11d. per cent. The same calculation for the following five years gave rates of 20s. 3d. per cent and 23s. 1d. per cent respectively.

In a subsequent meeting with the Association’s representation, the firm acknowledged that they had had “a very difficult few years”, acknowledging that the “accident rate had risen, despite having taken every care”. The firm argued that if it was necessary to increase the rate, it should be more than 20s. per cent and it should run at the same rate for the following three years and then be reviewed.

By late 1938, the number of employees had dropped a further 27 to 146, although the annual wage bill, only dropped by £265 to £20,771. There were 12 management and clerical staff (£2,200); 3 wood working machinists (£500); 13 apprentices and youths (£650); 118 others (£17,421).

Whilst no accident can be considered acceptable and remarkably few were life threating, they are all sad in their way.

Some employees appeared either to be more prone to accidents than others, or worked in more accident pone jobs. Samuel Robert Cholerton, appears to be one such employee, with five known accidents between 1931 and 1937. The first was in late 1931, when he was off work for several weeks. The second almost exactly a year later, when he injured his right thumb and was off work for five weeks; the third incident was in May 1933, when a flake of metal flew up and struck him in his left eye. At the Association’s request, he visited eye specialist Mr Ridley, at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, who reported that there was slight inflammation; the injury appeared consistent with Cholerton’s story, although there were no witnesses. The expectation was that Cholerton would return to work almost immediately; however, having visited the specialist, it appears that he was reluctant to return to work, necessitating a further visit to the Infirmary. Six months later, he suffered yet another injury to the same eye. This time some fine emery dust was thrown up from the machine of the man working next to him and hit him in the eye. Again, he visited the specialist at the Infirmary, who confirmed that the injury, a slight inflammation of the cornea, was consistent with the accident report. Although he would still have a slight scar, the specialist thought that Cholerton could return to work within a few days, although it was probably more like several weeks before he returned. The next was in late 1935, although no details known about either the accident or injury. The fifth accident, which occurred in May 1937, again resulted in an eye injury. This time Cholerton was using an ordinary hammer to chip away at a casting. Not unreasonably the Association raised the subject of eye protection, to which the firm responded by stating that it was their “custom for the fettlers to use goggles when grinding, but we have now given instructions for them to also use them when chipping”. In the same letter, they ordered an additional 4 pairs of goggles. The injury was sufficiently serious for Cholerton to be admitted into the Leicester Royal Infirmary, following which he took a holiday, before returning to work.

Whilst most of the recorded incapacities were due to accidents at work, several were brought on by aggravating existing ailments. Under these circumstances, it was difficult to determine where the liability lay and particularly as to whether either the firm or Association were culpable or whether the employee should claim on their own insurance, if appropriate.

One such example was William Howard, of No. 25, Cambridge Street, Shepshed, who was incapacitated due to an outbreak of dermatitis on his hands. After several medical examinations, by both his own doctor, Dr Bell and that of the Association’s, Dr Stamford, it was decided that, having suffered from the complaint for several years, the latest outbreak was not caused by his work as pipe moulder, but was probably aggravated by his hands getting hot. He had previously been employed by the firm several years earlier, but having left had only worked for five or six months during that period, as a labourer, on a contract in Shepshed, for Messrs Edcaster Ltd., road contractors, based in Doncaster. As a result, the Association accepted the claim an awarded Howard £1 3s. per week. He appears to have been off-work for about eight months and on numerous occasions the dermatitis appears to have almost cleared up, for the condition to only worsen again. He was eventually referred, by the Association, to a dermatologist, Dr H. Smith Wallace at No. 11, Regent Street, Nottingham; who having examined him, noted that not only was Howard still suffering from the effect of dermatitis on fingers of both hands, he also had a very septic mouth. It was thought that he be unlikely to be able to return to work until his mouth improved and recommended specific treatment for his mouth and a course of injections to desensitise his skin. Howard eventually had 26 of his teeth removed by local anaesthetic, which were replaced with a full set of dentures. The cost for this treatment by the dentist, R.W. Marston[3], was £6 12s. 6d. Of which, Howard’s own insurance, the National Amalgamated Approved Society[4] paid a little over half (£3 12s. 6d.), leaving Howard to find the remaining £3 6s. Howard applied to the firm for this to be paid by the Association, to which their immediate response was that neither were they nor the firm was deemed liable and that Dr H. Smith Wallace considered that having to have the teeth extracted was not related to Howard’s dermatitis. However, if the firm did not have a Works fund that they could draw upon, the Association would consider paying half the amount, if the firm paid the other half, which is exactly what happened. Howard’s dermatitis cleared up but his return to work was delayed for a few weeks because he was only able to take a light diet. When he did eventually return to work, he was given a job as a fettler instead of a pipe moulder, because it was thought that it was less likely to inflame his dermatitis. However, almost three years later, the condition flared up again. This time after further medical examination, by J. Avit Scott, the Association’s specialist, the diagnosis was that the condition was not caused by his job. This resulted in them applying to the Loughborough County Court Registrar, “for the matter to be referred to the Medical Referee on the grounds that the grounds that the condition from which he is suffering has not been produced by the worker’s employment”. The diagnosis from the Medical Referee was that Howard’s condition was not a result of handling dust or liquids as part of his job. Indeed, he was not suffering from dermatitis at all but from eczema of a “constitutional origin”. As a result, the Association refused to pay up, leaving Howard to obtain benefit from his Heating Insurance Society. However, they were prepared to reasonable travel expenses to Birmingham to visit Dr Avit Scott and the Medical Examiner, Dr B.C. Tate.

 


References:

  1. Private Records.
  2. Whose salaries did not exceed £350 per annum. The figures also excludes salaries of Partners and Managing Directors
  3. He had 2 practices, one at No. 102, Derby Road, Loughborough and the other in the Bull Ring, Shepshed.
  4. The National Amalgamated Approved Society was formed in 1912, under the provision of the 1911 National Insurance Act by which industrial assurance companies or friendly societies could set up an “approved society” to administer statutory benefits. The National Amalgamated Approved Society was a joint venture between a number of Offices: Albion Friendly Society, Britannia Assurance Company Limited, British Legal and United Provident Assurance Company Limited, London and Manchester Industrial Assurance Company Limited, City Life Assurance Company Limited, Hearts of Oak Life and General Assurance Company Limited, Pearl Assurance Company Limited, Pioneer Life Assurance Company Limited, Refuge Assurance Company Limited, and Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Limited. Each Office was represented on the Committee of Management. The Society ceased to exist in 1948 under the terms of the 1946 National Insurance Act which abolished approved societies. The Society had offices at No. 30, Euston Square, London, NW1.