Published in Truckstop News – October 2008.

In this month’s issue Steven Hinchliffe of the specialist Personal Injury firm Hinchliffes Solicitors considers “LIFTING AND MANUAL HANDLING TASKS”.

Many truckers suffer with back pain caused by various factors, including the requirement to lift objects and perform general manual handling tasks.  The term “manual handling” is used to describe a wide variety of jobs, including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying, moving and holding or restraining an object, animal or person.  It also covers activities that require the use of force, for example pulling a lever or operating power tools.

HSE records suggest that over 30% of all work accidents involve manual handling issues, with an estimated 300,000 people each year suffering the agonies of back pain.

Although back injuries are common in this type of accident, they can also cause severe limb problems affecting muscles and tendons.  Also, heart conditions may arise owing to the nature of the injuries suffered and the length of time they take to heal, and which can have a profound effect on longer term health.

In the UK there are strict laws to ensure that action is taken to prevent this type of accident from occurring, and all employers should have a written safety policy.

Under The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 employers must provide a safe and healthy working environment, including:-

  • – the provision of safe equipment, which is regularly checked and maintained

  • – the establishment and enforcement of safe systems of work

  • – the provision of all necessary information, training and supervision

  • – ensuring workers are safe when required to use, store and transport loads and hazardous substances

Employers should recognise when a problem exists and assess the potential risk to workers and the business as a whole.  A solution to the problem should be established and appropriate training given, eg in a safer system of work.

However, employees also have a duty to report situations where they feel their work might put them or others at risk of injury, and must follow set systems of work and undergo all necessary training.  It goes without saying that they are not to damage or disable equipment, or to work in a manner that they know to be dangerous.

Under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (revised 1998 and updated in 2004) employers are required, so far as reasonably practical, to avoid the need for employees to undertake manual handling tasks.   However, if it is impossible to avoid such tasks there is a requirement to assess the risk involved with each task, and to take all appropriate steps to reduce that risk to the lowest level reasonably achievable.

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 include provisions relating to the use of hoists and slings.  This requires employers to ensure that the equipment provided is of sufficient strength and stability for the tasks undertaken.  The equipment should also be clearly marked with details of maximum loads.  Any equipment that could potentially be misused to lift people (eg on the forks of a forklift truck) must be clearly marked “Do not use to lift people”.  Also, the equipment should be checked every 6 months and only used by trained personnel.

If manual handling accidents occur and the employer is found to be in breach of their responsibilities, a successful claim for personal injury compensation usually follows.  The injuries sustained in such accidents can have a profound effect, not only on the worker’s health, but also in financial terms especially if they are away from work and lose income as a result.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

I have worked for a stationery company for 3 years, delivering orders and carrying heavy boxes from the back of the van to the customer’s office.  I have never had lifting training and have not been given a sack truck.  I have problems with my back and my doctor says this is because of my work.  I need an operation, but cannot afford to take the time off work.  What can I do?

It appears your employer has either failed to carry out a risk assessment of the tasks you are required to do, or has not ensured any safety measures have been put in place and followed.  At the very least, you should have had training on how to lift safely and been provided with appropriate equipment to assist with deliveries.  You probably have a good claim for compensation against your employer, and which could include lost wages for the time you are off work because of the operation.

I am a delivery driver and occasionally have to help out in the warehouse.  The company takes health and safety matters seriously, but the warehouse supervisor does not always follow procedures.  Sometimes when I have problems getting items from higher shelves, he lifts me up on FLT forks.  Although I go along with this to get the job done, if I was to have an accident and make a claim could the company say it was my own fault and that they do not need to pay up?

If you were to be injured in an accident (eg if you fell from the forks) you would still be able to make a claim as you were taking orders from your supervisor.  However, your compensation would probably be reduced because you knew what was happening was dangerous and against company policy.  You are clearly being put at risk and should refuse to do this again.  If your supervisor objects, you ought to report the matter to a more senior person.

ENDS

(Other Personal Injury FAQs)

PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM SOLICITORS:-

If you have suffered any form of accident or contracted an industrial disease contact personal injury specialists Hinchliffes Solicitors for immediate legal advice, to find out if you are entitled to make claims for injury compensation.  All cases are conducted on a No Win – No Fee basis, where the Client keeps 100% of the compensation recovered.

Call now on 0800 138 1348 to speak direct to a personal injury lawyer or go to our Start Your Claim Now  page to submit details of your personal injury claim online.

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