Why are so many workers affected by manual handling injuries?
6.9 million working days were lost last year due to musculoskeletal injuries. One of the reasons that manual handling injuries are so common is that lifting and carrying are often not seen as dangerous tasks.
Many workers carry out manual handling tasks as part of their everyday work responsibilities. The term refers to the lifting, lowering and carrying of items, such as taking boxes off shelves or pushing a delivery cart.
Untrained employees will often be asked to move something heavy, such as furniture, reams of paper, boxes or office equipment, without training or supervision.
Even in industries where the risk of manual handling injuries is better understood, like construction and agriculture, workers are often asked to cut corners and carry more weight than is safe.
Manual handling injuries include:
- Soft-tissue injuries to the back, neck, shoulders, wrists, arms or legs
- Spinal injuries
- Strains and sprains
Chronic pain is also associated with manual handling injuries, particularly if the original injury is not identified and treated properly.
Is the employer liable?
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 set out the rules that employers must follow when designing manual handling activities. There is no such thing as a completely safe manual handling operation, and the main thrust of the legislation is aimed at reducing risk.
Specifically, employers must eliminate manual handling wherever possible by automating lifting and carrying tasks. Where this is not practicable, employers must reduce the risk of injury by, for example:
- Reducing the load to match the strength and weight of the worker
- Ensuring the weight of objects is evenly distributed
- Using lifting aids
- Reducing the amount of twisting and stooping
- Giving plenty of rest breaks
- Training staff on safe manual handling procedures.
Employers who do not take the necessary steps to reduce the injury risk are likely to be found negligent in a personal injury claim that results from this failure.
What to do if you have a manual handling injury
Get medical attentionIt is very important that you seek prompt medical attention, even after a seemingly-minor manual handling accident. In some cases, symptoms of back pain and soft tissue injuries can be delayed.
It is also important that you get the correct treatment following an accident involving lifting or carrying, to avoid the injury developing into chronic or more severe symptoms.
Keep a record of your accident and injuries
A record of your accident will help you to:
- Claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and benefits
- Make an injury compensation claim
Even if you don’t plan to claim anything right now, it is a very good idea to make a record while you can remember details of what happened, and make a note of the names and contact details of witnesses.
Reporting a manual handling injuryManual handling injuries often go unreported, at least initially, as the injured worker may not realize how badly they are hurt.
Once you have received medical attention and the site of the accident has been made safe, you should report even minor incidents to your manager or supervisor. Reporting will make it easier to prove that the accident caused your injuries if you only develop painful symptoms a day or two later.
Can I make a manual handling injury claim?
In many cases, it is easier to make a work accident claim than it is to claim for other types of personal injury.If you were injured at work in the last three years, or you were diagnosed with a work-related condition, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
Financial support after a manual handling accident
If you have been injured at work, you may be entitled to claim financial support. Your options include:
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Work accident compensation
In some cases, you may also be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). ESA is available to workers who have made National Insurance contributions in the last two years and is also available if you are self-employed.
Will my employment status affect my right to claim?
Whether you are employed, self-employed, on a zero-hours contract or employed through an agency, a claim should still be possible. There are however a number of things you need to be aware of.
Read more about claiming if you are:
How much compensation will I get?
Manual handling compensation awards are calculated based on two factors:
- The injuries or illness you have suffered (called general damages)
- The financial costs you have incurred (called special damages)
Injury compensation is worked out with reference to an official table of guideline amounts. During the claims process, your solicitor will arrange for an assessment of your injuries to determine which table values are applicable.
Our calculator uses the official guidelines to give you an idea of the compensation you could receive.
Making a No Win, No Fee claim
To make a claim for a manual handling accident, you will need to appoint a solicitor.
Work injury claims in the UK are usually made on a No Win, No Fee basis.
Your solicitor will ask you to sign a 'Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA)' which is the legal term for 'No Win, No Fee'. The CFA will set out the terms and conditions of the agreement, what your solicitor will do for you and what fees they will receive if you win.
Our work injury advisors will:
- Offer free, impartial advice
- Explain how No Win, No Fee works
- Recommend the right solicitor