Paper company pays £120,000 in back injury compensation claim

A paper company has been fined £120,000 after a worker suffered a paralysing back injury. He was crushed beneath a two tonne reel of paper which caused spinal fractures and has left him paralysed from the chest down. The company was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and admitted breaching health and safety regulations. Because the company was found to be negligent, the worker is entitled to back injury compensation. Workers at the factory had repeatedly complained about dangerous working practices where workers were expected to move the heavy reels using their shoulders. However, despite the complaints, the management failed to change the systems in place. This system of work was found to be unsafe by the court and the company was required to pay a £120,000 fine plus £18,514 costs.

Manual handling is one of the main causes of back injuries in the workplace. Back injuries can be caused by lifting heavy items, incorrect lifting or repeated lifting, even if the weight is moderate. Injury caused by manual handling was the most common type of ‘over-3-day injury’ between 2001 and 2009, according to the 2009/10 HSE statistics. An over-3-day injury is one where a worker is off work or unable to complete their duties for a period of over 3 days. Care needs to be taken by employers and workers to ensure that these injuries are avoided. When injuries do occur as a result of negligence, it can lead to a back injury compensation claim.

The back is a complex area of the body. It consists of 24 small bones called vertebrae that support the weight of the upper body and protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord carries nerve signals from the brain to the rest of the body. There are also intervertebral discs which cushion the bones of the back. Ligaments, tendons and muscles hold everything together and allow movement. Damage to any one of these components can be extremely painful and can affect movement. Back injuries can also affect other parts of the body, including the neck and legs.

Symptoms of a back injury include pain, tension, stiffness and muscle spasms. Back pain can be treated with pain killers, ice packs, exercises or even surgery for serious cases.

Employers are obliged to follow the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 which state that a thorough risk assessment must be carried out for any type of work, in order to minimise the risk of injury. Workers must also receive manual handling training, including good handling technique to avoid injury.

The best way for an employer to avoid back injuries through manual handling is to minimise the amount of manual handling that workers do. A sweet manufacturing company recently introduced a range of new machinery for lifting and moving items in their factory. The machinery has dramatically lowered the amount of manual handling that is needed in production and has therefore also reduced the risk of injuries to workers. In fact, there have been no accidents since the machinery was introduced.

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