Employers must ensure manual handling training to prevent back injuries at work

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The most common cause of a back injury at work is through the incorrect lifting or moving of items in the workplace. Whether that be the occasional box of paper to refill a printer, repetitive lifting on a factory assembly line, or heavy items in a warehouse or construction site, all employers have the same responsibility to provide a safe working environment where the risks of injury are minimised.

In order to minimise the risk of a back injury, employers are duty bound to ensure that all staff members have been shown how to lift and move items safely. This is commonly known as ‘Manual Handling Training’, and not only does it show how to lift safely, it also gives employees the skills to identify items that are too heavy to lift alone, and what tools (such as hoists and trolleys) should be used for items that are ‘overweight’ and too heavy to carry unaided.

The duties faced by employers are set out by the Health & Safety Executive in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992. This requires an employer to implement policies and procedures to ‘prevent or reduce the risk of injury’ faced by workers required to perform manual handling.

Manual handling policies at work

The prescribed manual handling training guidelines provide employers with 3 key elements of guidance to minimise the risk of a back injury in their workforce. When carried out properly, these elements will ensure that workers can lift and move items in the workplace safely.

The 3 key areas for an employer:

  1. Remove the need for manual handling (lifting) of items involving a risk of injury – so far as is reasonably practical. Of course, it is not always possible for an employer to remove all manual lifting of items, but where possible an employer should provide mechanical aids (tools and equipment) to do the lifting of items. An employer should also investigate the possibilities of reviewing the working practices to alter the way in which an employee works to ensure that any weight/items lifted are split into easily manageable loads.
  2. Where it is not possible for a manual handling task to be removed from the worker, it is essential that an employer has adequately risk assessed the role. This must include the task being performed, the loads or items that require moving or lifting, their weight and size, the workplace itself, with regards to adequate room to lift and move items safely – such as twisting or turning and the individual capabilities of the worker.
  3. Employers must have done all they can to reduce the risk of injury through lifting or manual handling of items. There is no set maximum weight that one person should lift but it is essential that employers utilise a set policy to ensure safe working to minimise the risks faced by workers. Commonly, employers state that no single item in excess of 25kg should be lifted manually by one person. Employers must also ensure that all packages are marked clearly with the weight of the contents held within the same.

Manual handling training

To ensure that workers are able to work safely, employers should provide manual handling training. This may be delivered by way of an educational video or through a booklet. This training should provide a demonstration as to how to lift safely, by bending one’s legs to pick up/drop off an item, rather than bending the back, and what to do if an injury is sustained.

However, providing manual handling training does not in and of itself absolve an employer from responsibility for the wellbeing of employees who are being tasked with lifting and moving of items in the workplace. Not only should an employer provide training and guidance to employees regarding lifting, they must also ensure that the working practices employed in the workplace and the space provided to staff to perform lifting enables workers to do so in accordance with any training or guidance provided.

At Direct2Compensation, we have successfully assisted a number of people who have suffered a back injury at work, even though their employer had provided manual handling training. However, in these cases the working practices or layout of the workplace meant that it was impossible to lift items without putting undue pressure on the muscles and mechanics of the back.

What should an employer do if a back injury is reported?

If a back injury is sustained at work, it should be reported to the management team or supervisor responsible for the worker involved. Best practice would indicate that an employer ought to advise the injured worker to seek medical attention from a qualified doctor to have the injury assessed and a diagnosis obtained. If the injury is sufficiently severe, the worker will require a period of rest with no heavy lifting. In such circumstances it is likely that a doctor will medically sign the worker off for a defined period.

In the case of a minor injury, such as discomfort, it is wise for the worker to temporarily avoid lifting of items. Best practice would see an employer temporarily move the worker to light duties where possible and for the worker to then be provided with refresher training for further lifting when recovered to ensure that the injury is not repeated.

Anyone who suffers a back injury at work should ensure that the injury has been recorded within the employer’s accident book. If there has been no provision of manual handling training, this should be noted in the accident book entry and if the working practices employed within the workplace or the working area provided makes it impossible to lift items safely that too should be noted.

If your employer won’t record the incident in an accident book, or won’t let you see it, you should get legal advice.

How compensation can help you to recover

If you have suffered a back injury as a result of an incident at work or because of a repetitive strain of repeated lifting of items you may well have grounds to pursue a claim for compensation against the employer.

At Direct2Compensation we know your rights and are experts in accident at work compensation. Whether the injury has lead to you being unable to work and lose income, or simply causing ongoing discomfort, there are many benefits to successfully pursuing a claim for compensation.

Not only will a successful claim win compensation for the injury sustained, the claimant will also be able to recover any lost income or costs incurred because of the injury.

Alongside this, it is also possible to access great rehabilitation therapies as a result of the claims process. In the case of back injuries at work, most of them are a musculoskeletal issue and recovery from such problems can be achieved more quickly when physiotherapy, osteopathy or massage therapies are provided.

To find out more about how we can help you with a back injury claim against your employer, please call us on 01225 430285 or visit our ‘start a claim’ page to send us your contact details. A quick chat on the phone with us will enable us to properly assess your claim and offer you the advice and support you need. We work with leading accident at work solicitors, many of whom have a genuine speciality in claims arising from manual handling related injuries.

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Questions & Answers


  1. Anthony

    I have a problem where I hurt my back in 2016. I was a year into my job where I had never been shown how to lift the metal bars we were placing on machines or safely move pallets of metal with a pallet truck. I was never trained on the forklift so when a day came when our three main forklift drivers were off for religious reasons I was explicitly told one of my bosses would be taking over the forklift duties for the day on question, they did not do this due to being scarred of using the forklift and jobs that usually involved the use of a forklift I had to do by hand, the majority of the bars I moved that day weighed more than what one person should move by themselves. Ever since then I have had regular time off due to severe lower back pain. I’ve never been shown where the accident book is at my work place, I’ve now been moved to a section where I sit for most of the day however the chairs we have are well used to the point where there is no padding and we have to fix them up with bubble wrap and rags just for it to be bareable which recently led to an injury to my tailbone. Still, we are required to lift heavy boxes to do our work and the same reoccurring back problems happen, and when I return to work from having time off due to this within a day or two it’s back to lifting heavy items with no assistance. The company I work for to the best of my knowledge has never trained anyone when it comes to manual labour, in previous jobs I’ve either had to watch a video or read a leaflet about how to lift but never at this place. The company recently installed the Bradford Factor system however if they aren’t following basic health and safety are they allowed to penalise employees due to their own negligence? My physical and mental condition has worsened over the past couple of years, it’s to the point where I am unable to secure employment elsewhere due to how often I have back problems.

    Reply
    • Ian Morris

      Your employer was negligent in failing to provide you with the correct training for the manual work and for the correct way to use the machinery or metal bars. Therefore, they are likely to be responsible for your injuries.

      However, you mention that you were injured in 2016. As you may be aware, a claim for personal injury compensation within the UK must be made within 3 years of the date of the injury. As it is now 2019, three years have passed since you were injured at work and it is likely that you are now statute barred and would be unable to take any action to make a claim against the employer. The only way you could make a claim would be if your injury at work happened in November or December 2016, in which case there is a slim chance that you are still in limitation.

      Reply
  2. Mike

    What can I do if I’ve been given no manual handling training and suffered an injury at work, but in a customer garden and not at our depot?

    I work for a heating company for oil tanks, so a manager has gone survey the garden etc but turned out it was all unsafe and all uneven and different levels, basically oil tank has fallen in event causing myself muscle damage to my back.

    Reply
    • Ian Morris

      Your employer has responsibility for your health and safety whilst at work, whether you are working within the employers premises or out on a site. It does not matter where you are working, the employer must ensure that you can work safely.

      In the scenario you describe, you can pursue a claim for the injury to your back and we can help with this. You need to ensure that an accident book record is made with the employer and that the report notes how the tank fell and you should of course seek medical attention from your GP or a Hospital to ensure that appropriate medical evidence is available to support your claim.

      Please call our team on 01225430285 or you can start the process with us by asking us to call you when you are available.

      Reply
  3. Andrew

    I have received a back injury at work but I have never received any form of manual handling training from my employer. For some reason, my employer is under the impression that because I did receive manual handling training at previous workplaces, they have no legal obligation to provide said mht to me?!

    Reply
    • Ian Morris

      Your employer is wrong in assuming that they have no responsibility to ensure that you are able to work safely and that you are shown how to lift and move items safely. The fact that you have had such training at a previous workplace is an irrelevance here as the employer has no idea what training was given, how long ago and whether or not it was relevant to the work you now do.

      If you would like to make a claim for your injury, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help you.

      Reply
  4. Lauren morley

    I am currently signed off sick from work due to mental health and stress/anxiety. I also have on my notes with the doctor aches and pains in my neck, shoulder, my employers have had a meeting with me today to made my position redundant. My employers have said on transcript that they have not provided any manual handling training, my job involved lifting heavy items of rubbish as I was a cleaner on a residential development,

    Reply
    • Ian Morris

      You could have two separate claims to pursue. One for the physical injuries to your upper spine/neck and shoulders and the 2nd for work related stress and anxiety.

      I would suggest that the best course of action would be for you to provide us with your contact details so that we can call you at a suitable time to discuss these matters with a view to pursuing claims on your behalf.

      Reply
  5. Ann Bracken

    I started work 2 weeks ago in an old peoples home. I have not received any training yet and regularly assisting the elderley by getting them out of bed, taking them to the toilet. I had to attend a walk in centre yesterday due to a bad back ache and numbness in my wrist. It was diagnosed as sciatica and carpal tunnel syndrome. I have been put on co-codamol. At work the stair lift is broken so I am assisting residents in walking up and down the stairs amd am bearing their full weight. I cannot take time off work as i do not get sick pay. I do not know my rights.

    Reply
    • Ian Morris

      Your employer needs to ensure that you are trained to work safely at the earliest opportunity and this really should be BEFORE you are placed at risk.

      In this case, there is reason to pursue a claim as the employer could well have been negligent towards your health and safety. You should make a report of your injury to your employer in their accident book. You should note the broken stair lift, the lack of training and the diagnosis you have been given.

      We would be happy to assist you in making a claim against the employer should you decide to go down that route.

      Reply
  6. Chelsea

    I currently work in a care home, I started in February and when I joined the company they set me a moving and handling training which was online.
    When I did this they said I could now get involved with handling residents etc.
    Since then my back has started to hurt and crack in awkward positions. It has left me with pain down my back and going into my legs. And some mornings I struggle to sit up.
    I did my own research, and found out that the training that the employer provided me with was insufficient, and then I asked for practical moving and handling training due to pain in my back. 5 months down the line I haven’t been provided with the right practical moving and handling training.
    Is there anyway of claiming for this?

    I am after information, I do not want to start the claim today.

    Reply
    • Ian Morris

      Provision of manual handling training by an employer is an obligatory requirement, but provision of training in and of itself would not prevent an injured employee from pursuing a claim for injury caused by lifting and moving whilst at work.

      In your case, you appear to be of the view that the employer has not provided adequate manual handling training and you could therefore possibly have a valid claim against the employer for the back pain you are suffering with.

      To protect your interests, you must ensure that you report your pain to your GP and advise them that it was caused at work. It would be worth noting to your GP that you were not given adequate training. You should also make your employer aware in writing, of the inadequate training and your back pain caused as a result.

      Remember, you have a maximum claim limitation period of 3 years from the date of your injury. You should note that it is important to ensure that should you opt to pursue a claim, that you do so at the earliest opportunity rather than delay any action too much. Whilst you are allowed 3 years to make your claim, if there is less than 6 months of your claim limitation remaining, it is struggle to place your claim with a Solicitor.

      Reply
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