Ward at Bute Hospital, Luton 1913 [Z1306/75/5/3]
Thursday 26th September 1918: A claim for compensation has been brought at the Luton County Court by Susan R. Webb of 116 Hartington Street, Bedford. Miss Webb was feeding an automatic machine at George Kent’s Biscot Road works in Luton on 6th July 1917 when her cap was caught by the cogs and her hair and head were drawn into the machine, causing a severe scalp injury. She was in the Bute Hospital for six weeks and part of the skin of her leg had to be grafted onto her head, which was left largely without skin. As a result she was a nervous wreck and currently practically incapable of doing any work.
The firm had paid Miss Webb twenty five shillings a week until 12th April, and the claim was for lost wages since that date. They had offered her light work at 33s 9d per week, with half the difference between that rate and the amount she had earned before the accident. Unfortunately the girl had to go into a room next to the one in which the accident took place, and her nerves were so badly effected that it was impossible for her to work there. She was offered work in the canteen, but that was over-run by large numbers of girls and Miss Webb did not take that position. She applied for non-factory work looking after a child, but the mother would not trust a women in her condition; she was also refused work at another factory. On the doctor’s advice she got work at a nursery as a fruit picker, but was never able to earn more than 8s 9d, and the work made her giddy. During her evidence Miss Webb several times burst into tears.
In evidence for the company, Dr. Lloyd of Luton said he had found no organic disease and was of the opinion that the girl unintentionally exaggerated her feelings. He agreed that excessive noise would increase her nervousness, but suggested she would get used to it in time, and argued that even though she said she had been unable to do it work on the land would be the best thing for her. The Judge was not impressed by this witness. In his judgement he agreed with another doctor that the girl was not capable of doing any substantial work, and awarded her £1 3s 5d a week compensation with costs. However, the case made him regret there was no way to compel such unfortunate persons to do work which would prevent them brooding over their misfortune.
Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 27th September 1918