Our guide below provides information on your employer’s responsibilities with regard to risk assessments and manual handling procedures and advice on whether you can make a personal injury claim.
How do manual handling accidents occur?
Injuries caused by insufficient manual handling procedures
What measures should my employer take to ensure safe manual handling?
Can I take steps to reduce my risk of personal injury?
Manual handling risk assessments
Reducing the risk of manual handling injuries
Our specialist workplace accident solicitors
Claiming compensation for an accident at work caused by manual handling
Successful Manual Handling Claims
Manual handling accidents at work can happen to employees in many different industries and situations, from offices to factories, building sites, nursing homes, warehouses and many more. A manual handling task is one where, either manually or by applying force, a person lifts, lowers, pulls, pushes, moves or carries a load.
At any time where a person has to lift or handle objects manually, move or manoeuvre goods, assist in the movement of patients or adopt awkward postures, a personal injury could be sustained without the relevant workplace health and safety procedures in place. In particular, those involved in heavy manual labour and heavy lifting are at risk.
Back and shoulder injuries are amongst the most common types of injury sustained through manual handling, but almost any type of injury can occur.
It is not always the lifting or moving of items itself that causes an injury, for example if the object being moved is dropped or breaks it can cause lacerations, crush injuries or fractures. People can also slip when manoeuvring the load and suffer injury.
Current regulations (the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992) require that employers take steps to avoid any unnecessary manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable, and carry out risk assessments for all necessary manual handling to:
• Assess the risk of personal injury to employees
• Reduce the risk of injury as much as is practically possible.
It is not only the weight of an item that has to be considered, but also its nature. For example an object that is not heavy, but is large, awkwardly shaped, slippery, sharp, very hot or very cold may be difficult to handle.
Each employee has a responsibility to conduct their duties as safely and responsibly as possible whilst at work. You should ensure that you familiarise yourself with working practices and safety procedures and take care not to put yourself or others at risk.
It is important to make full use of any equipment and protective wear provided for your safety and inform your manager / employer immediately if you believe that there is a hazard in your workplace.
Your employer has a responsibility to carry out risk assessments for workplace activities. This would include observing each activity and ensuring that it is carried out in the easiest, safest, least physically demanding way possible. For particularly risky activities, a more comprehensive assessment may be required, possibly with the assistance of an outside expert.
Some of the main factors to be considered when making a risk assessment are:
• Whether or not objects need to be moved at all.
• If aids, automation or machinery (hoists, pallet trucks etc.) could be used instead of basic manual handling.
• The needs of individual employees that may be at particular risk of injury (for example employees with disabilities, those with medical conditions or pregnant women).
• That any necessary training of employees has been carried out and is up to date.
If any substantial changes are made to a workplace, it is also important to keep risk assessments up to date.
In general, when trying to prevent manual handling injuries it is best to avoid handling excessively heavy or unwieldy items, carrying over long distances or up sets of steps, repetitive lifting and handling or strenuous pulling and pushing.
Awkward postures whilst handling can also cause strain and injury. It is therefore advisable to avoid stretching across or upwards, twisting to the side or stooping and items should be held closely to the body.
Other common causes of injury whilst lifting and handling are working with objects that are incorrectly stacked or located at above shoulder height and having to work at an imposed rate or output. Additionally, if an object is unstable, difficult to grip, sharp or hot, it is far more likely to cause injury.
Finally the workplace itself should be laid out with safety in mind. Temperature, lighting, storage and floor surface should all be considered.
It may be possible in some situations to use lifting aids or vehicles to avoid heavy lifting or managing awkward loads. Such aids include:
• Stair Lifts
• Pump Trucks
• Pallet Trucks
• Vehicle Tail Lifts
• Fork Lift Trucks
It is important for employees to be trained in the use of lifting aids for their safety.
The Legal Line’s lawyers are experts in all areas of personal injury and industrial disease, with extensive experience in recovering damages for the victims of workplace accidents. They can provide specialist accident claim advice, assistance and guidance in helping you to pursue your compensation claim to the best possible outcome.
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It is always a good idea to obtain prompt legal advice from a specialist personal injury solicitor if you have suffered an accident at work whilst lifting and handling and believe that you may be entitled to make a claim. In every case, medical evidence will be required.
In any personal injury claim it is necessary to show that the person you are making a claim against owed you a duty of care, that they breached that duty of care (were negligent), and that the injury you sustained was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of that negligence. Your lawyer will be able to collate all of the information about your case and advise you on the best way in which to proceed.
If an accident at work does occur, you should try to record as much information as you can, taking photographs where possible. If applicable, try to ensure that your accident is also recorded in any accident book. Remember to keep details of any medical treatment and receipts for any injury related expenses, as these may be useful in your claim.
There are two elements to a compensation award.
The first, called general damages, is for the pain and suffering you may have gone through and any loss of amenity (perhaps an inability to wash your car, look after your garden, walk the dog). The award for loss of amenity can be for a short period after an accident or for ever if that is what the medical evidence supports.
The second element of a compensation award, for your losses and expenses, is known as special damages and aims to put you back in a position financially as if the accident had never occurred. It is important to keep receipts for any expenditure you have related to the accident so that these can be reclaimed.
In serious cases, where a person may no longer be able to continue their employment, this can be taken into account. Costs for care, equipment, transport and housing modifications can also be factored into the calculations. If the person is still able to work but not in the same role as before, particularly if they held a public service role such as a doctor or police officer, an extra amount may be awarded for loss of ‘congenial employment’. A court can also make a financial award to recognise that an injured worker's prospects on the open labour market may be limited.
If a person is fatally injured, a dependent relative such as a widow and children may be able to claim a statutory sum for their bereavement and funeral expenses, but also sums for the loss of income and contribution to the household in the form of future losses.
Below you will find details of some of the many successful compensation claims made by our lawyers on behalf of manual handling accident victims:
Still only in his early twenties, a young man employed by a local authority to carry out multi-skilled maintenance work was instructed to carry out a repair to a roof, in one of the buildings for which the authority was responsible. He had never undertaken this type of work before and asked several times for assistance, as he felt that on Health and Safety grounds the work required two people. This was refused. He also had to ask a colleague for instructions on how to complete the work, even using his colleague’s tools, as he did not have his own for this type of work.
Having collected a roll of lead to use in the repair, he was carrying the roll towards the ladder when he felt a severe spasm in his back and shoulder. He fell to the floor and dropped the roll of lead, which weighed in the region of 25 kilograms.
As a result of the injury at work, our client visited his GP and was initially diagnosed as having suffered a spasm in his back. Several weeks after the accident at work, he returned to work briefly but suffered a setback when his back seized. He was then taken to hospital and was admitted for several weeks in order to carry out an MRI Scan and other tests. It was arranged for him to see an orthopaedic surgeon who eventually diagnosed a fractured disc in his back as a result of the manual handling accident.
He underwent several operations over the course of the next few years to try to correct this injury, but it is unlikely that he will ever achieve a full recovery. He has been advised that he will certainly be disadvantaged in the open labour market, and will be unlikely to be able to undertake any heavy work.
Our client has been unable to play sport since the accident at work, and because he cannot stand for long periods, he is also unable to watch. He still suffers shooting pains up his spine and pins and needles through his leg and foot as a result of the workplace injury. For some time following the accident, he was unable to look after his young daughter and is still restricted in his ability to play with her.
The defendants’ insurers refused to negotiate settlement. Our personal injury solicitors, who specialise in workplace manual handling claims, commenced court proceedings and the case went to trial. When the case was heard in court our client was awarded over £60,000 in injury at work compensation.
Our client had worked for the defendants for over 16 years. Her job involved a large amount of manual handling and lifting of heavy objects. Normally this was a two-person operation but, during holiday periods, our client was expected to cope alone. In addition, lifting equipment that should have been used for heavier lifts was not available due to an electrical fault. Health and Safety guidelines stipulated that a weight limit of 36kg was the maximum before assistance or lifting equipment was required.
For several days prior to the accident, our client had been working alone. During this period, she had developed pain in her middle finger and though painful, she continued to work. Over a couple of days, the pain travelled up her arm and into her shoulder and back. On the day of the accident at work, she had asked for assistance to lift an object that she estimated was more than the 36kg allowed. She was advised that assistance was only available if other staff had completed their own work. She had no option therefore but to continue unassisted.
Because of the excessive weight, she attempted to overcome the problem by raising the table, so that it was higher than the bin into which she was to dispose of the object. This meant that to push the object into the bin she had to lean forward to manoeuvre it into the bin. As she did so, she felt immediate pain in her back that would not go away. She reported the injury at work to her supervisor and went home. When the pain persisted the next day, she visited her GP, who prescribed painkillers. However, after some days when the pain became worse and her back went into spasm, so that she was unable to get out of bed, her GP referred her to hospital. She was immediately admitted and spent almost 2 weeks under investigation, at which point it was eventually confirmed that the problem was a prolapsed thoracic vertebrae. She was advised this was certainly a work related injury and that it is likely to be a long process of recovery. For several weeks, she was virtually unable to move, relying on her husband for housework and personal assistance.
No manual handling risk assessments had been carried out for this particular task, and our client had been provided only with the basic manual handling training, nothing specific for her job requirements.
The defendants admitted full liability for the accident and our specialist personal injury solicitors were able to negotiate a satisfactory settlement of almost £5,000 for our client for this manual handling claim.
Working in a manufacturing environment, our client was involved in managing the movement of pallets around the production area and between heavy lifting equipment. The first time he was injured at work was on a day when there had been several instances of pallets overshooting their target. Eventually, the problem became so serious that, together with an engineer, our client had to manually manoeuvre the pallets back into position. In trying to resolve the problem, our client suffered a manual handling accident and sustained injury to his groin and lower back.
Some time later, there was another occasion when several faults occurred during the day. Normally a two-man operation, the emergency stop had to be pushed to reset the equipment. At one stage, the fault reoccurred whilst our client was alone. To keep production moving, he climbed down between the machinery to try to push the stop button himself. His foot went between two rollers, causing him to lose balance and fall awkwardly. He suffered a second injury at work, which resulted in serious damage to his kneecap.
Already receiving treatment for his back and groin injuries following the first accident at work, our client had to undergo further treatment for his injured knee. Though extremely painful, the injuries from the first accident were not permanent. Unfortunately however, the second workplace accident caused contusion to his knee, resulting in prolonged pain and tenderness. The treatment involved an MRI scan and arthroscopy and he has been left with hypersensitivity to the skin on the front of his knee.
The defendant admitted liability to both accidents and our expert lawyers, who specialise in workplace accident claims were able to secure accident at work compensation, of almost £6,000 for our client.
Upon his return to work following a prostate operation, having also undergone other prostate operations and a hernia repair fairly recently, our client was put onto light duties. His Occupational Health department advised that he should not undertake any tasks involving pushing, pulling, lifting or stretching and his manager was aware of this.
Despite the instructions, he was given a job whereby he had to operate a manual hoist, then pull and move a rack containing several heavy components using considerable force. He queried whether he should be working with the manual hoist and the heavy components but was required to complete the task. As a result of undertaking the manual handling tasks he suffered a
Our client suffered a loss of earnings because of undertaking this manual handling operation and was left with a scar from the surgery. Our lawyers assisted him in making a personal injury claim for his accident at work and secured a sum of compensation on his behalf for the pain and suffering that he had endured and the financial losses he had incurred.
Our client suffered a serious lower back injury in an accident at work whilst performing a manual handling task. He was cutting some large pieces of metal, but the usual machine for this job was out of service. He therefore had to use an alternative machine and in order to make it suitable for the task he first had to remove a steel plate from it, which weighed in excess of 30kg.
He carried the plate away from the machine then, as he went to set it down, he experienced severe back pain. This was diagnosed as a prolapsed disc and tear in his lower back after some hospital tests. Our client was unable to return to work after his accident.
We acted on his behalf in a personal injury claim against his employer, as they failed to ensure that he had adequate training, equipment and assistance to perform his work safely. The case was successful and we recovered in excess of £23,000 compensation for our client.