We act on behalf of a Claimant who was employed as a materials handler in a factory which produces various types of oil filters for cars, tractors, aeroplanes and lorries. As part of his role he manually lifted boxes of materials between 15 to 20kgs and had to pour the content of the same into high hoppers at head height into machinery to aid production, such working practices caused his initial back injury. After taking some time to recover, without being given an opportunity to work on lighter duties, he unfortunately sustained a further back injury a few months later. The second injury occurred when he was trying to move crates of materials weighing approximately 500kg using a pump truck which was too narrow to move the base of the crate; although other departments within the factory had wider pump trucks which were more suitable to move such crates. Unfortunately as a result of his employer’s complacent attitude to dangerous working practices he has suffered from two back injuries at work.
After the expiry of the protocol period, his employer provided denials of liability with respect to both incidents; however they were only able to provide very little disclosure in support of their denial. After the Claimant’s application for pre-action disclosure with respect to the second incident, it has now been confirmed that his employer is unable to show that any risk assessments had been undertaken in the factory generally both before and after the accident; and no risk assessments were completed with respect to manual handling or the selection of work equipment. Further they failed to train the Claimant with regard to risks generally, health and safety or manual handling.
Our Claimant’s claims are now being prepared to be issued to resolve the matters; it is disappointing that employers continue to deny liability in such claims which could easily be resolved without incurring the delay and expense of involving the court to adjudicate on the issues. Furthermore, this case demonstrates how important risk assessments are in the workplace to avoid injuries generally. Our Claimant’s injuries could have been easily avoided if his employer had: adequately assessed risks, particularly the manual handling techniques used in their factory; provided suitable equipment to lessen the burden of the manual handling loads for their employees; and if they had provided training to their employees as to the risks of their health and safety. It shall certainly be interesting to see how they will be able to demonstrate that they reduced the risk of injury to the lowest level reasonably practicable in accordance with Regulation 4 of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 and Egan v Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS Trust  EWCA Civ 1424;  WLR (D) 394) which confirms the reversed legal burden of proof on the employer.