A 35-year-old woman has dragged Tullow Ghana Limited to the Human Rights Court over work-related injury.
Pearl Margaret Ashley, a social worker and graduate from the University of Ghana, is demanding GH¢10 million from her former employer for providing her with a chair which has caused permanent injury to her back.
According to Ms Ashley she has suffered permanent injury which has made it impossible for her to pursue a new job or seek higher education.
She is, therefore, praying the court to order the defendant to put her on a medical insurance scheme available to its employees and bear her medical expenses relating to her back injury.
Aside the GH¢10 million damages she is seeking, the plaintiff is pleading with the court to grant any other order it deems fit.
Statement of claim
A statement of claim accompanying the writ of summons filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Mr Bright Akwetey said Ms Ashley was employed by Tullon on July 1, 2009 as a community social relations officer at its branch office in Takoradi and was given an office in the defendant’s premises at the old PTC Building in Takoradi, now known as Bay Court.
“In the office, the plaintiffs furniture comprised a chair and a table. She used the allocated chair and table for the three years and nine months, July 1, 2009 - April 17, 2013, that she worked as an employee of the defendant. The plaintiff worked hard in the assigned department and carried out her duties with all commitment and due diligence,” the statement of claim said.
According to the plaintiff, she had to undergo a rigid medical examination at the West African Rescue Association (WARA), a medical facility approved by the defendant, to ensure her suitability for the job because the job was physically demanding.
It said Ms Ashley passed the rigid medical examination and was consequently employed by the defendant.
In the course of her work, particularly from the year 2010, the plaintiff said she began experiencing some discomfort at her back which made her feel tired generally.
The discomfort assumed some regularity and began making her sick, adding that “the discomfort gradually degenerated into a sharp, uncomfortable, piercing pain which began from the back of her neck, moved down to her shoulders and further downwards to her waist and then to the hip-bone,” it indicated.
According to the plaintiff, she sought medical attention eventually but was advised by the in-house medical doctor of the company to seek medical attention at a Tullow-approved medical facility.
That medical facility eventually directed the plaintiff to seek medical treatment from a specialist chiropractor, Dr Angel Chambers, at East Legon in Accra for the appropriate examination.
“Dr Chambers diagnosed the problem to be a shift in a bone at the lower part of the plaintiff’s back which was caused by the chair she sat on to work in her office.
“To support his diagnosis, Dr Chambers made the plaintiff go off work for sometime and she realised that the pain had subsided, but immediately the plaintiff went back to work and sat on her chair, the pain returned with intensity. the plaintiff was made to undergo a series of tests which eventually revealed a deep problem of a permanent incapacitation as a result of the use of her chair.
“On realising that the chair was the cause of the injury to the plaintiff’s back and the resulting pain, Dr Chambers informed the plaintiff that she was the seventh staff of the defendant to report such a medical condition/situation,” the statement of claim continued, and further stated that Dr Chambers subsequently informed the resident medical doctor of the defendant to replace all chairs with worker-friendly ones.
The statement of claim said “Dr Chambers, thereafter, put the plaintiff through a regular regime of chiropractic and physiotherapic exercises to manage the pain which the plaintiff was experiencing. Much to the shock of the plaintiff, Dr Chambers told her that the nature of the medical condition which had developed could not be cured but could only be managed for the rest of her life.”
Citing other problems such as seizures, accompanied with piercing pains at her back and other parts, the plaintiff eventually “got disillusioned with work at the defendant’s office because the medical condition worsened and became unbearable and the work became laborious, painful and uninteresting as all the defendant could do to help her was to provide an additional pillow for her chair and payment of the medical bills but not her travelling expenses to and from Accra.”
According to Ms Ashley, she therefore took advantage of a redundancy exercise commenced by the defendant to offer to leave the services of the company and as a result was declared redundant on April 19, 2013.
She said the defendant, however, provided no solution for her permanent injury and the permanent disability inflicted on her.
Withdrawal of medical services
Per the statement of claim, the defendant withdrew medical services to the plaintiff, “thus leaving her at the mercy of a permanent agonising pain, misery, helplessness, hopelessness, discomfort and permanent incapacitation created by the chair supplied to the plaintiff by the defendant for her work.”
According to the plaintiff, the medical condition has limited her mobility, as well as made it impossible for her to seek a new job or higher education.
Meanwhile, Tullow Ghana Limited has entered conditional appearance.
Counsel for the defendant, Mr Kimathi Kuenyehia, entered the conditional appearance on behalf of the defendant.