Worker receives £32,000 in back injury compensation claim

A worker has received £32,000 compensation after injuring his lower back at work. He worked as a machine minder but injured himself after stepping from the machine onto a bundle of pipes, which caused him to fall. Before working on that particular machine, the worker had received only one week of training. The back injury compensation was awarded because the employer could have done more to prevent the injury. Further training would have familiarised the worker with the machine and proper risk assessment would have recognised the tripping hazard caused by the pipes.

HSE statistics from 2009/10 indicate that 248,000 workers in the UK believed that they were suffering from a musculoskeletal disorder affecting the back which had been caused by their work or made worse through the course of their work. The rate of new cases of musculoskeletal disorders of the back (ie. cases where the symptoms have appeared in the last twelve months) fell by 25% between 2001/02 and 2009/10. This decrease suggests that employers are becoming more aware of the hazards which can cause back injuries and what they can do to prevent them.

However, back injuries remain a major cause of worker absence. In fact, back pain is currently the second most common cause of sickness absence for workers in the UK. In 2009/10, an estimated 3.3 million working days were lost because of musculoskeletal disorders affecting the back. This equates to 0.14 days per UK worker.

Employers can minimise the risks of injury to workers through thorough risk assessment, regular consultation with workers and prompt response to any injuries to prevent them from worsening. These measures could also lead to a reduction in the number of back injury compensation claims.

Particular activities which can risk back injuries are heaving lifting, twisting or bending, repetitive work and any work which involves vibration. Employers can minimise the risks to workers by minimising their exposure to activities such as these and if it is necessary for a worker to do one of these activities, that proper precautions are put into place and the worker has received proper training.

A case where procedures helped to minimise the damage of a worker’s back injury is that of a worker at a biscuit and snack manufacturer who injured his back lifting a tray from a machine. He suffered from tenderness and pain down the right side of his back. He was advised to rest and take anti-inflammatories. However, the next day, his back had ‘stiffened up.’ He was advised to keep as active as possible and to continue taking anti-inflammatories.

A week later, he returned to work and was given reduced duties that did not involve lifting. He initially started back on reduced hours but, with physiotherapy, he was able to return to normal duties and full hours within 3 weeks. The potential damage and disruption from this incident was minimised by the worker receiving medical advice soon after the injury and through a rehabilitation programme which meant his return to work was gradual and a back injury compensation claim was avoided.

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