If we look at manual handling claims from a legal standpoint it relates to the lifting, raising, lowering, pushing and carrying of items. In the real world there are very few jobs which have no degree of manual handling although there are obvious others which revolve around manual handling. On the whole those who carry out manual handling activities on a regular basis suffer no injuries to speak of but not everyone is as fortunate. We have seen instances of muscle injuries, joint injuries, broken bones, internal injuries and unfortunately, on occasion, deaths.
While there are obvious obligations on behalf of employees to abide by procedures and safety measures to prevent manual handling claims, very often the buck will stop with employers. There are many instances where health and safety regulations are broken, resulting in manual handling injuries as a result of negligence leading to potential compensation claims. We will now take a look at the facts and figures surrounding manual handling injuries and how they impact the workforce.
Work Related Manual Handling Injuries
The Health and Safety Executive issues a report into work related musculoskeletal injuries on a regular basis. In many cases these are the result of manual handling accidents many of which could have been avoided if regulations and guidelines had been followed. During the financial year 2016/17 the figures show that 507,000 workers suffered from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder of a new or long-standing nature. In layman’s terms this equates to 8.9 million working days lost per annum due to musculoskeletal injuries.
The most common musculoskeletal injuries include:
- Lower limbs with 84,000 injuries per annum (17% of musculoskeletal injuries).
- Back injuries with 194,000 incidents per annum (38% of musculoskeletal injuries).
- Upper limbs and neck injuries at 229,000 per annum (45% of musculoskeletal injuries).
Over the years we have seen a reduction in musculoskeletal disorders from manual handling accidents in the workplace and while this is encouraging there is still much work to be done. Specific industries which seem to be hardest hit by musculoskeletal disorders include the likes of:
- Agriculture, forestry and fishing.
- Transportation and storage.
- Human health and social work activities.
As we touched on above, while these four particular industries regularly see above average instances of musculoskeletal disorders this is by no means a closed list. There is also a strongly shared opinion that the vast majority of manual handling injuries are never reported therefore the figures may well be just the tip of the iceberg. Even using the reported figures it is believed that around 40% of all work place related injuries/ illnesses are a direct result of musculoskeletal disorders.
Preventing Manual Handling Injury Claims
There are some manual handling injuries which on the surface seem to be a result of negligence or unsafe practices in the workplace. In reality, while every employer has a duty of care to safeguard their employees while on working premises, or working off site, all injuries do not necessarily lead to manual handling claims for compensation.
If an employer is able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they took all necessary precautions under their legal duty of care to employees then this may well admonish them from potential manual handling compensation claims. The simple fact is that in some instances there will be accidents where there is no negligence, no liability and no blame. That is not to say that employers will not learn from such incidents but they are not legally obliged to pay compensation for all manual handling accidents.
While the duty of care obligation for all employers will differ from industry to industry, when looking at manual handling issues there are some specific actions to take such as:
- Assess all manual handling tasks.
- Employers are legally obliged to eliminate unnecessary manual handling actions or ensure that the relevant mechanical support is made available.
- Where manual handling actions cannot be avoided, a full risk assessment should be carried out on a regular basis.
- Ensure that specific training is given to employees undertaking manual handling activities.
- Only relevant experienced personnel should undertake specific manual handling tasks.
This is all fairly straightforward although unfortunately there are many employers who fail to abide by the regulations, placing themselves at risk of a negligence ruling and potential manual handling claims for compensation. It is also worth noting that the relevant documentation should be recorded to show that all appropriate assessments and training have been carried out and updated on a regular basis.
Manual Handling Compensation
When pursuing a manual handling compensation claim as a result of injuries each case will be reviewed on an individual basis. However the Judicial College regularly issues advisory bands of compensation taking in particular types and differing degrees of manual handling injury. The consensus guidelines for what are known as general damages, compensation issued as a result of pain and suffering caused by injury, are as follows:
- For minor back injuries – compensation ranges between £1,860 and £9,500.
- Moderate back injuries from manual handling negligence, compensation ranges between £9,500 – £21,100.
- In cases of manual handling causing sever back injuries which impact the claimant’s agility and ability to work can lead to compensation of between £29,475 and £122,350.
As not all manual handling injuries occur to the back region and all manual handling claims differ, we’d advise contacting us today for an expert and free assessment of how much compensation you might receive for your specific manual handling injury.
While the guidelines issued by the Judicial College are in no way legally binding they are regularly referred to by the courts and insurance companies. It is also worth noting that some victims may be able to claim what are known as special damages which relate to specific financial costs. These can include:
- Loss of earnings.
- Loss of future earnings.
- Medical costs.
- Future medical costs.
- Mobility equipment.
- Specific adaptions to the home.
- Transport expenses.
This is not a closed list as special damages basically cover financial redress on costs incurred and funding for future related expenses. Obviously where manual handling injuries suffered are life changing such as paralysis and severe mobility issues the accumulation of general damages and special damages could prove very costly for the employer and insurance company.
Lodging A Manual Handling Claim
If you believe that you have been the victim of a manual handling accident as a result of negligence by your employer, or any other third party, there are specific actions which you need to take. In the event of any injury you should obviously seek medical assistance and treatment where applicable. While the majority of injuries will be assessed on medical premises, where there are serious injuries they may initially be assessed in the workplace. Taking this action ensures that manual handling injuries are assessed as soon as possible and the relevant action taken. However, this also ensures that any injuries are recorded on your medical records together with the circumstances.
In simple terms, in order to show negligence on behalf of an employer the claimant will need to prove that their employer did not fulfil their legal duty of care. This could take in issues such as:
- Faulty machinery.
- Lack of training.
- Inappropriate safety equipment.
- No risk assessment.
- No assistance offered where applicable.
- Unsafe working environment.
It also goes without saying that when the victim of a manual handling injury in the workplace you should inform your employer as soon as possible. They also have a legal obligation to note your incident in the accident book, which you can refer to when pursuing valid manual handling compensation claims, and on occasion inform the Health and Safety Executive.
Manual Handling Claims Process
The next step is to put together a report showing what happened, why it happened, when it happened and any witness statements. In many cases negligence may prove to be relatively straightforward and obvious but there will be instances where it is not so clear-cut or there could be what is known as shared liability. The report into your manual handling accident, and medical evidence, should be presented to your legal representative (if you choose to use one) and they will review your injury. As manual handling injuries are relatively common in the UK and as such we handle these claims regularly we already have significant experience in this area.
If you approach our personal injury team about a manual handling claim and we believe you have a valid case you will be given the option to pursue compensation on a No Win No Fee basis. This effectively means that any compensation payment is where our solicitors fee would be collected from on a prearranged basis so you, the claimant, do not have any upfront costs and know what our fee will be from the outset.
Once you have agreed with a legal representative to take on your claim it will be lodged and the defendant will be made aware of the claim, background and evidence. In many cases an out-of-court settlement will be discussed to avoid excessive legal costs and bring the situation to a close as soon as possible. In some circumstances the manual handling claim may go before a judge who will hear all of the evidence and make a ruling and possible compensation award.