The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that nine million working days are lost each year due to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and that MSDs account for 41 per cent of all ill health cases and 34 per cent of ALL working days lost due to ill health in the United Kingdom.
Musculoskeletal disorders affect the soft tissues, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves of the back, upper limbs (wrists, arms, shoulders and neck) and lower limbs (feet, ankles, knees and hips) .
The law dictates that employers must ensure a safe and healthy working environment for their staff. With regard to MSDs, there are many cost effective and simple steps an employer can take to prevent or minimise them. Whilst not all MSDs are preventable, the risks involved can certainly be reduced.
One of the most common causes of MSDs in the workplace is incorrect manual handling. A manual handling accident at work is by no means an infrequent occurrence, neither is a lifting injury at work. Whether you work in an office, in a warehouse, a school, a factory, a hospital or a high street shop, you could be at risk from manual handling injuries. This is precisely why it is vital for employers to undertake site-specific risk assessments in order to ascertain the potential risks so that steps can be taken to remove or reduce them.
What should my employer be doing to avoid manual handling injuries?
There are various steps that employers can take in order for their workers to avoid a musculoskeletal injury from work.
If you believe you have suffered a musculoskeletal injury from work such as a shoulder injury caused by poor working conditions, or damage to your back, neck, arms or legs, then the following Q&A should help you determine whether your employer has failed to take adequate steps to protect you, in which case you may be eligible to make a claim for manual handling compensation.
1. Has a risk assessment been undertaken to establish the potential risks involved in the manual handling tasks you carry out?
2. Have you been involved in the risk assessment process and consulted as to your views on the hazards involved in your job?
3. As a result of the risk assessment, were measures put in place in order to reduce the risk of injury from hazardous manual handling? Have your concerns, ideas and suggestions been taken into consideration?
4. Have any unnecessary manual handling tasks that were considered hazardous been removed from your duties?
5. Has your employer introduced manual handling aids or changed processes in order to make the tasks easier for you?
6. Have you been provided with adequate, tailored manual handling training? Are your skills kept up to date on a regular basis with refresher training?
7. Are you supervised and monitored to ensure you are following correct procedure in manual handling?
8. If you have special requirements, for example because of a disability, because you are pregnant, due to your age or because your role makes you particularly vulnerable, have those been taken into consideration?
If your answer to any of the above questions is ‘no’, then it could be the case that your employer is in breach of duty.
Of course, employees have duties to adhere to as well. If you are making a claim for manual handling compensation, then it is likely that you will be questioned as to your observation of the systems of work put in place to protect you. You will also need to demonstrate that you used any equipment provided for your safety, and used it in the correct manner. In addition, you will be expected to fully cooperate with your employer on all matters related to health and safety and inform them should you become aware of any hazards. You also have a duty to take proper care in what you do so that it does not put others at risk.
Can I claim manual handling compensation?
If you are of the opinion that a manual handling accident at work or a work related upper limb injury, lower limb injury or back injury have resulted from negligence on the part of your employer, be sure to take specialist legal advice without delay. Always remember there are strict time limits for bringing any sort of claim for personal injury.
At Seth Lovis & Co. we offer specialist expertise in manual handling compensation claims and have successfully represented a vast number of clients who have suffered a musculoskeletal injury from work or a back injury at work caused by poor working conditions.