RSI from Massage

This was a highly publicised case. Virgin Atlantic employed the claimants to do a "Shiatsu” or pressure-point massage service for customers. Both K and R carried out around ten 15-minute massages per shift and had to hold wrist-extended positions. The technique required hard pressure with the heel of the hand. Customers commonly had suits on so deep manipulation was required with fingers and thumbs.

K and R sustained injury and brought actions against Virgin, alleging that it was negligent and in breach of statutory duty under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 by failing to:

  • assess the risks involved in the strenuous massage work
  • supervise and control the workload
  • take any action to instruct employees as to the risks and how to respond to onsetting symptoms
  • monitor employees' health
  • stop the massages as soon as it became apparent that its employees were suffering symptoms
  • prevent employees from suffering symptoms.

K and R maintained that risk assessment should have included detailed consideration of: application of force, speed of work, repetition of tasks, and awkwardness of movement.

Liability was disputed. Both had suffered upper limb symptoms within a few months of starting the job. K was diagnosed as suffering from a combination of golfer's and tennis elbow and R was diagnosed as suffering from a non-specific diffuse RSI-type injury.

K was successful and awarded £109,252.53 total damages. R settled out of court for £26,000.

Thompsons Cases

Manual handling and hoists

Our client was a residential care worker. She and a colleague were getting a large lady ready for bed. The lady had known mobility problems which were logged frequently in her care book. This time the patient fell backwards knocking the claimant into furniture and injuring her back.

The defendant said there was an instruction to staff to use a hoist at all times for this patient and that had been breached by the claimant.

The claimant and her witnesses said they understood the instruction to relate to lifting only and not general assistance around the house. They said it would have been cumbersome to move furniture on each occasion she was assisted by a hoist in the bedroom.

The Judge found there was a gap between the defendant’s pleaded case – that a hoist was to be used at all times – and the instructions given to care workers as to when a hoist should be used.

There was also a breach in the Manual Handling (Lifting and Operations) Regulations 1992 Reg 4(1) in failing to enforce a safe system of moving the claimant in light of her difficulties.