Ignoring manual handling issues could cost you dearly
Gary Tierney, Associate at Simpson Millar LLP has acted on behalf of a CWU member, who was involved in an accident on duty on 17th April 2004 at 6.30am at the Dunstable Delivery Office.
The circumstances of the accident are that the accident occurred on Easter Saturday, there has been no delivery on Good Friday, therefore on arrival at work on Easter Saturday there was a substantial amount of post for preparation and delivery. Sorters had been working on the Good Friday and when the Claimant arrived at her delivery frame she was faced with a wall, approximately 2ft high, of mail in front of her but preventing her from getting to her frame was a mailbag which she ordinarily have retrieved from her drop bag fitting, however the sorter on the Good Friday and filled the bag to its limit and dragged it over to her frame.
The Claimant was not able to commence working whilst the bag was in the middle of her frame therefore she decided to slide the bag that was full to the top with mail to one side with two hands and her foot, and on doing so she sustained an injury to her back.
A claim was brought under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 and Occupiers Liability Act 1957.
The case proceeded to a fast track hearing, damages were agreed in the sum of £8,000, Royal Mail had denied liability throughout. Royal Mail alleged she had been fully trained on manual handling tasks and part of that training was that if a post person encountered an obviously overweight bag then they should either, seek assistance, break the bag down or report it to a manager.
At the trial on 11th September 2008 the District Judge found as a matter of fact that the over filling of mailbags by employees at Dunstable was a regular occurrence, known by managers to be regular, and that managers therefore failed to take sufficient steps to prevent mailbags being overfilled.
He found that the Claimant should not have been faced with such a decision in the first place and that there was a lack of supervision and no system in place for weighing bags. He said that a simple system could be arranged without bags having to be lifted or moved.
He found primary liability against the employer but also found that the Claimant did take a risk and albeit it was an understandable risk, there were options she could have taken. The evidence that we called by way of witness evidence did show that asking for assistance from colleagues is unlikely to have worked as all of her colleagues were equally busy, breaking the bag down was not an option as her frame was already full, and reporting each and every overweight bag to management when it was proven to be a regular occurrence would not go down well within the office.
There was Judgment for the Claimant on a two-thirds : one-third basis.
The Claimant received damages in the sum of £5,333.33 plus interest due to successfully beating a Part 36 offer, and costs were recovered and included a 100% success.