Back injuries are one of the most common causes of absenteeism in the UK. Each year, employers lose millions of pounds because of lost working days and compensation payable because of injuries sustained in the workplace as a result of poor practice when carrying out lifting activities.
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 require employers to carry out a risk assessment on manual handling tasks that pose a risk of injury. The Regulations describe manual handling as ‘...any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force’.
In a recent case, a sports centre supervisor who injured his back trying to lift a set of swimming pool steps that was faulty has won a £50,000 payout.
David Barber, 62, was a qualified lifeguard and worked for a council-run sports centre. He had complained about the faulty steps on several occasions but nothing had been done to rectify the problem. He was told that fixing the fault was ‘not a priority’.
After injuring his back, Mr Barber was off work for four months. When he returned, he had to take painkillers to get through the day. Four months later, his injury was further aggravated whilst he was taking part in training to renew his lifeguard qualification. As a result, he has had to retire permanently as he suffers constant pain, for which he will have to have regular epidural injections.
Mr Barber decided to bring a claim against Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, which runs the sports centre. Although the Council did not admit liability for his injury, it agreed to pay compensation of £50,000 after proceedings were issued.
The Health and Safety Executive has useful guidance which outlines the problems associated with manual handling and sets out best practice in dealing with them.