Some of the most common accident at work compensation claims are for muscular injuries affecting the back. Whether someone is regularly shifting stock in a shop, moving materials on a factory production line or building site, or simply moving boxes in a office, all employers have a responsibility to ensure that staff members are adequately trained and advised as to how to lift items safely. Back injuries can even be caused by light items if the lifting is not done in the correct manner.
Safe lifting and carrying training is commonly known as manual handling training. Whether or not an employer has provided manual handling training will be very relevant to us reaching a decision as to whether or not there is a valid claim for work accident compensation to be made.
Employer responsibilities – manual handling guidance and training
All good employers will ensure that new staff members undergo a basic induction to the workplace. This will provide general health and safety guidance that is relevant to all employees, such as how to act if a fire alarm sounds, what to do after an accident, how to use the accident book and who the first aid staff are. Alongside this, all staff should be provided with manual handling guidance. This could be as simple as watching a short video showing how to lift and move items safely, how to avoid putting excess stress on the muscles in the lower back and how to safely move items.
If you work for an employer who has not provided this guidance, and you have suffered an injury to your back as a result of lifting and moving items, you may well have a strong claim for accident at work compensation. If you have not suffered an injury, but have not been trained, you should advise your employers that they are putting all staff at risk of injury.
Providing training and advice on lifting in the workplace may to many people seem like teaching your granny how to suck eggs, but the consequences of an injury to the muscles of the back can have long lasting implications that can prevent someone from working, being active or able to fulfill their usual day-to-day activities. It is in every employer’s interests to provide such basic training to staff members as it will reduce injuries, reduce costs of staff absences and prevent staff members needing to claim compensation for injuries caused at work.
As well as training new staff, employers should also ensure that existing staff members are provided with regular refresher training (usually every 3 years) and given any updated advice as and when experts issue such new guidance.
Inadequate environments and unsafe lifting practices
Providing training to staff is not in itself enough to enable an employer to refuse liability for injuries caused to the back through lifting at work. Providing training is one thing, but providing a working environment that enables staff to work safely and in accordance with the training provided is essential. We have regularly helped people claim compensation for back injuries caused through work who have had training from an employer. However, they have been forced to work in small spaces that prevents them from being able to lift and move items as they have been trained to or not provided with the correct equipment to safely move items.
When it comes to lifting heavy items, there are basic health and safety guidelines that should be followed. It is suggested that no person should attempt to lift an item that exceeds 25kgs in weight without the assistance of a second staff member or hoist. Trolley’s should be provided to move items once lifted as this will reduce the stress placed on the employee’s lower back. If you work for an employer who expects you to lift items of 25kgs or more without assistance, you are likely to suffer an injury at work and if so, would have a very strong claim for compensation.
Criteria for a successful claim
As with all claims for personal injury compensation, those for injuries to the back as a result of an accident at work will only be successful if certain criteria are met. For more details on how to make a successful claim, read our guide to claiming workers’ compensation. The two most important factors are that any injury or accident should be properly reported and recorded with the employer and medical treatment must be sought and received. Most employers provide an accident book system and as an injured party, you MUST ensure that the details of your injury are recorded within the same.
If your employer refuses you access to the accident book, you should contact us for advice. There are still things you can do if no record of the accident has been made. You should also see your GP or attend an A&E department to ensure that the details of your injury are noted on your medical records as this will provide evidence to support your claim at a later stage.