Hoists and room set up in an old person’s home

The claimant worked in Home Care for the council. She was caring for a patient who weighed about 18 stone and was unable to weight bear or speak.

The task was to change the patient and get him into bed. He was in a wheelchair.

The claimant and her colleague removed his clothes from his upper body. They then pulled him forward and applied a hoist. They put a sling down his back as far under his bottom as possible. They then pulled his legs through the leg straps.

At that stage, the claimant’s colleague walked away to speak to the patient’s wife.

The claimant called for her colleague to come back to help. The patient was fidgeting as he had been left suspended in the hoist and looked upset at his position. The claimant continued the operations. She pressed the button on the hoist to electronically lift him clear of the chair. This took about 45-60 seconds.

The claimant’s colleague did not come over, so the claimant decided to move the hoist across the carpet one to two metres in a pulling / pushing motion to take him towards the bed. In moving the legs of the hoist under the bed, she felt a jolt as they hit upon wires hanging from the bed and her shoulder was injured.

The defendant’s main point was that the claimant had had clear express training that to use a hoist was a two-person job: one to push the hoist and one to steady the client.

The claimant accepted that was the training but felt she had to get on with it when the patient was stuck in an upsetting situation and looked distressed and impatient.

She felt the best she could do was to call her colleague over and then, in the absence of help, to get on with it. The defendant asked what more they could have done other than to instruct the claimant not to operate the hoist herself. They also said she should have looked out for obstacles when moving the hoist.

The claimant argued that there was no risk assessment for the carers. The only risk assessments on record were either for the patient or general risk assessments and no specific consideration had been given to the risk of injury to the carers under the Manual Handling Regulations 1992 in caring for the patients.

She also said that the wires under the bed constituted a trap and also represented a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1999 and the hoist was unsuitable as the wheels were too small for safe use on the carpet.

The Judge ruled:

a) There was nothing wrong with the hoist itself. He did not accept arguments that the wheels on the hoist could have been larger or that it was an inappropriately selected hoist.
b) He did agree that the wires on the bed represented a hazard and directly contributed to the injury and rejected that the claimant could reasonably have identified or spotted the wires before starting the manoeuvre.
c) He accepted the purposes of the Manual Handling Regulations were to assess the risk of injury to the carers as well as the patients.

He found a risk assessment would have illustrated specifically the need for two carers to be there at all times to push and pull the hoist and to re-enforce the general training to the claimant. There were breaches of Manual Handling Regulations 4( 1)(b )(i) and (ii).

He thought it was a reasonable decision by the claimant to act in response to the unpleasant situation the patient had found himself in and to try to move the hoist. She had waited about a minute for her colleague to return and she was trying to help the patient. Again, a properly conducted risk assessment would have identified the possibility of that happening and reduced the risk of injury.

He found no contributory negligence against the Claimant. He did not feel that the claimant was acting outside her competence and knowledge or standardised training.
d) He also found a risk assessment would have showed that there should have been less of a distance between the wheelchair and the bed.

Judgement for the claimant

Bardon -v- Rotheram Metropolitan Borough Council, Rotherham County Court,

Helping children with cerebral palsy

The claimant was a teaching assistant. One child had cerebral palsy. The claimant often took most of her weight when assisting her. She developed a back injury.

After the claimant was signed off work, the child was reassessed and various equipment, such as hoists, was purchased to help her movement.

The defendant argued the child had become heavier since her last assessment so equipment was only needed after the claimant’s injury. The defence also said that the claimant had been told not to lift the child.

Just before trial, the defendant admitted liability. The defence pursued a point on contributory negligence but the Judge rejected that argument, as the claimant had no other means of moving the child in the absence of equipment.

Williams -v- London Borough of Newham, 25 October 2007, Bow County Court,

A 100 per cent uplift for costs was awarded to reflect the Defendants’ delay in admitting liability.

Merchant Shipping Regulations

The claimant worked on a dredger on the River Tyne. He was settling a fender, which was over five feet long and weighed about 27kilos. It was made from heavy-duty rubber.

At the time, the vessel’s crane was also being operated and that was causing the vessel to rock up and down in the water. This caused his fingers to become trapped between the quay and the vessel.

Tim Buckland at Newcastle did some research and pleaded that the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Manual Handling Operations) Regulations applied. This was important because the normal Manual Handling Regulations do not apply to vessels.

The Judge at trial accepted these Regulations applied and that there had been a breach of them – in the same terms as normal Manual Handling Regulations.

There had been a failure to risk assess the task and to reduce the risk of injury and to give adequate supervision or training.

The claimant was found 40 per cent contributorily negligent.

Rock –v- Port of Tyne Authority, 13 December 2007, Newcastle-upon-Tyne County Court.