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Manual handling and back injuries

Manual handling is incorporated in many different jobs. Unsafe manual handling techniques are a common route to back injuries.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) musculoskeletal injury accounts for 30 percent of all ill-health in the workplace, and the biggest cause by far is poor manual handling practices.

Musculoskeletal injury includes damage to the bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles and soft tissue that affects the body’s movement.

Sectors with the highest rates of manual handling injury are agriculture, healthcare, construction and postal/courier services. Across all sectors, there were almost 9 million working days lost during 2019/20.

Manual handling weight guidance

Manual handling refers to lifting, carrying, moving (pushing or pulling) an object, person or animal.

HSE guidance is that a man shouldn’t lift anything heavier than 25kg while the safe maximum limit for a woman is 16kg. These limits are for loads being lifted to no more than waist height.

Where the load is to be lifted to shoulder height, the maximum weight reduces to 5kg for men and 3kg for women.

Two-man lifting

Where two people are lifting together, the general rule is that the load should not be more than two thirds of their combined weight total. So, for two men the combined weight should not be more than 33kg.

“Heavy lifting” is considered to be anything over 22.7kg.

Safe lifting?

Lifting a load below the weight limit does not mean that it is safe to lift. The maximum weights are based on the assumptions that the working conditions are good, the load is easy to grip with both hands and the employee is reasonably fit and well.

Even where the load is within the safe limit, the risk of injury increases significantly if there is any degree of bending, stretching or twisting involved.

Employer’s legal obligations

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, all employers must provide their staff with proper information and training to be able to carry out  manual handling tasks safely.

Employers must also carry out a thorough risk assessment that considers the task being carried out, the individual, the nature of the load and the working environment.

Employee obligations

Creating a safe working environment is not solely down to the employer, staff must play their part too. Staff must follow systems of work that are in place and use equipment properly. Staff are also under an obligation to notify their employer if there are changes in the workplace or they identify an activity that is either unsafe or has the potential to become unsafe.

Injured at work?

If you have been injured while carrying out  your job and you believe it was not your fault, call and have a no obligation chat with our friendly team. We will be happy to let you know what your options are. Call 01302 320621.




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£30,000 compensation for care worker

Atherton Godfrey’s associate solicitor, Maria Houghton, has won £30,000 for a woman who worked in the care industry.

Maria’s client, Ms G, worked as an assistant at a care home in Coventry. At the time of the accident, Ms G, along with another member of staff, had been asked to transfer a resident from his chair to a wheelchair using a handling belt. As she was holding the resident, he fell heavily onto her right hand side. She took all of his weight on her arm. The resident had been undergoing physiotherapy and had been advised to use an electrical hoist to move himself, but physiotherapists had said that he should be encouraged to use a Zimmer frame and a handling belt.

A visit to the hospital the following day suggested that Ms G was suffering from a frozen shoulder. She was in severe pain, had a cortisone injection and had to take strong pain killers. She had to take six weeks’ sick leave before returning to work wearing a shoulder support.   A risk assessment was carried out and she was told to work as part of a pair with someone and to tell them if she couldn’t cope with people who needed more physical support.

Ms G then suffered a further accident, about nine months after the first one, when she was helping a resident who had Parkinson’s disease. The man fell whilst being helped to the toilet and pulled on Ms G’s shoulder, which caused acute pain and necessitated a further visit to hospital, where she was given morphine and told she had impingement syndrome and had torn her rota cuff. When she returned to work, she was transferred to lighter duties as a receptionist and had to take a pay cut. She was in low mood and upset that she couldn’t carry on with what she regarded as a satisfying occupation in which she had worked to gain experience over quite a long period of time.

Ms G worried about her future due to her inability to do the care work in which she has experience, her lack of transferable skills and her sickness record created by these two accidents. She contacted Atherton Godfrey to see if she could claim compensation for her accident. Maria pursued the care home for which Ms G worked, suggesting that it had, amongst other things, failed to:

  • provide a safe place to work and take reasonable care of our client
  • devise and implement a safe system of working
  • undertake proper risk assessments
  • comply with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

The care home disputed liability and Maria issued proceedings. However, she was able to negotiate a settlement of £30,000 before the case went to trial.

Find out more about accidents at work on our web pages.