Have You Suffered A Back Injury From Lifting At Work?
The Law Of… ensuring employers adhere to manual handling regulations
Many of us will be expected to lift heavy items in the course of our employment, with most instances passing without issue as employers and other members of staff adhere to manual handling regulations.
Under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR), employers are required to either:
- Ensure that staff avoid hazardous manual handling operations;
- assess any hazardous manual handling operation where it cannot be avoided, or;
- reduce the risk of injury as much as practically possible.
As one of our clients discovered however, an employer failing to adhere to these regulations can hold significant permanent consequences, with chronic back pain and a serious decrease in quality of life being common side effects of injuries sustained by unsafe lifting, carrying, and moving of heavy materials in the workplace.
Postman Suffers Serious Personal Injury
During the course of his employment as a Postman, our client was making deliveries with a colleague.
Our client reached into the back of their delivery van to grab a mailbag; upon pulling it towards him, he experienced severe pain in his lower back.
The pain was so severe that our client was unable to stand straight and eventually had to take a seat in the van while his colleague continued with deliveries.
Upon calling their delivery office and reporting the incident, our client's employer sent out a Line Manager and first aider, who called for an ambulance after arriving at the scene.
Upon medical examination at a local hospital, our client was prescribed with ibuprofen and co-codamol to manage his back pain.
As pain was not subsiding, our client sought further medical attention and it was established that he had suffered a severe sprain to his lower lumbar spine, with a subsequent MRI scan showing that the incident at work had caused a disc prolapse.
Our client faced chronic back pain as a result of the incident and underwent a constant course of physiotherapy, surgery, and visits to pain management clinics to help him cope with his severe symptoms, however many of these steps only provided short term pain relief and did not aid our client in returning to a physical state comparable to that of before the incident.
Chronic Back Pain & Loss Of Amenity
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, our client could not work for four months, at which time he returned on light duties.
After eight months of light duties, our client returned to work full time, however due to ongoing aggravation of his injury, he was signed off with ill health by his employer after another eight months.
As a result of our client suffering a disc prolapse he began suffering severe discomfort and numbness in his right leg, with pain along his calf and pins and needles frequently causing him discomfort.
Our client's injuries are still causing him pain and discomfort and it is believed he will walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
Due to his reduced mobility, his friends and family have to offer him daily care and help him perform everyday tasks that would have been no problem for our client before his injury.
Our client's loss of amenity included being unable to go for long family walks, play snooker, tend to his garden, and perform DIY tasks around the home – all tasks that he performed regularly without complaint before his injury.
The injury resulted in our client facing a direct disadvantage on the labour market, making it difficult for him to return to work at all, even in a role that differed from his original position as a Postman.
A medical expert also established that our client suffered from psychological disturbances following his injury, with an inability to sleep because of his injuries and the fact that he was not able to perform routine tasks possible causes of psychological ill health.
Establishing liability in this case was difficult, as Ruth Magee – Associate in Simpson Millar's Personal Injury team – explains:
"Establishing liability in this case was particularly challenging, as we had to show that the mailbag handled by our client exceeded the 12KG maximum weight set for mailbags by his employer."
"It was our client's case that his colleague had overfilled the mailbag due to the fact it was the run up to Christmas, a period that is especially busy for postal services and that the mailbag weighed at least 16kgs."
"When other employees attended the scene of the incident they removed the mailbag in questions and split it down into smaller bags, and it was impossible to establish the original weight of the bag."
"Against this backdrop, we were able to agree a liability split and our client was pleased with the outcome we secured for him."
"I was happy to secure a compensation settlement for my client and I hope it goes some way to improving his quality of life both in the immediacy and in the future."