June 8, 2006 7:23 AM PDT

Companies warned after RSI payout to freelancer

The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper has paid to settle a repetitive stress injury claim made by a former freelancer.

The Guardian's insurers paid out 37,500 pounds ($69,078) last month to Andrea Osbourne, a freelance sub-editor, who developed the repetitive stress injury (RSI) after being refused physiotherapy by the Guardian's human resources department, according to Osbourne's legal representatives.

Legal experts at Pinsent Masons solicitors described the case as "a wake-up call" for employers this week.

"Regulations require employers to assess all workstations for health and safety risks," said Simon Joyston-Bechal, a partner and health and safety expert at Pinsent Masons. "Many find this difficult to achieve for all workers. But some don't even try."

"Employers are asking for trouble if they turn a blind eye," Joyston-Bechal warned.

Osbourne claimed she had developed RSI predominantly through using a mouse while at work.

"The Guardian showed absolutely no sympathy," Osbourne told Guardian Unlimited, where she had spent most of her two years at The Guardian.

"Because I was employed as a (freelancer) and didn't have a permanent contract, they refused my requests for physiotherapy and made no attempt to find a way for me to work, which would have reduced the repetitive strain in my elbow," Osbourne added.

The Guardian denied responsibility for Osbourne's condition.

"We completely refute the picture painted by Andrea Osbourne in her statement and we are very disappointed by her comments," The Guardian said in a statement. "This payment has been made by Guardian Newspapers' insurers with no admission of liability."

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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