Back injury compensation in case of employer negligenceJuly 1, 2011
Back pain is very common. Most people will suffer from back pain at some point. It can be minor and last only a few days or weeks. However, injuries to the back do occur which are much more serious.
Common causes of back injuries are through manual handling, incorrect posture, vehicle accidents and repetitive movement.
According to the HSE, musculoskeletal disorders, including back injuries, have consistently been the most commonly reported type of work-related illness. The 2009/10 HSE statistics estimate that, in 2009/10, 248,000 people who had worked in the past year in the UK stated that they were suffering from a musculoskeletal problem affecting the back, which had been caused or worsened by their work. The HSE also estimates that the equivalent of 3.3 million working days were lost in 2009/10 through musculoskeletal disorders affecting the back. The average number of days taken off by each person suffering was an estimated 13.4 days over the course of the year. This equates to a huge amount of lost productivity for employers and potentially a huge amount of lost wages for workers.
The NHS recommends the following strategies for dealing with back pain: stay active, take pain relief and seek medical advice if necessary. For more serious back conditions, anti-inflammatory medication, physiotherapy or even surgery may be needed. Back injuries can cause long-term pain and may affect movement.
Employers have a responsibility to minimise the risk to their workers of back injuries during the course of their work and to ensure the effective rehabilitation of workers who are returning to work after a back injury.
In 2005, a grocery products company started running a physiotherapy clinic for staff twice a week. Workers can be referred to the clinic by the Occupational Health Unit and be seen by the physiotherapist within a week. As a result, the company has managed to dramatically reduce the costs incurred by staff absence by ensuring that staff have access to specialised treatment at an early stage.
Unfortunately, not all companies are this focused on workers’ health. A delivery driver was recently awarded £22,000 after making a back injury compensation claim. He was delivering newspapers and magazines but the pallets in his van had not been loaded in delivery order and had moved around during transit so that he needed to move them around to get to the correct items. Because of the restricted space and the heavy weights involved, he injured his back. As a result of the injury, the worker was off for 8 months, before he was required to leave the company. Unlike in the previous example, the employer did not prioritise the safety of its workers. There had been numerous complaints about the way vans were loaded but no action had been taken. The delivery driver said that he put in a claim for back injury compensation as a way of forcing his employer to address the issue. Steps have been taken by the company to prevent further accidents but, as the worker states, “it’s too late for me.” The injuries will prevent him from returning to work.