The interesting thing about this case is that no party actually suggested a safer mechanical way to do the lift in question but the Judge did not find that it was necessary for him to know of another way to conclude that the defendant should have investigated and discovered one and their failure to do so was a breach of the Manual Handling Regulations.
The claimant and his colleague were removing a 56kg battery from a bus. It was stored in a tray between knee and waist height and had straps.
Each colleague bent forward and took hold of one of the straps and tilted and eased it out of its position and lifted and pulled it towards themselves, rested it on the edge of the tray and turned and lowered the battery to the floor.
While lowering the battery to the floor, the claimant felt pain in the lower right side of his back.
The Judge found it easy to conclude there was some risk of injury as required by the first step of the Manual Handling Regulations.
He turned to the defendant’s risk assessment, which was just general training for lifting. Given the specific difficulties of the task and the lowering of a heavy bulky load that was required, he found there should have been a specific risk assessment for it and there was not a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
He then asked would it have made a difference if such an assessment had been carried out? No different risk assessment had been taken out since the accident. The claimant could not devise a safer system under cross examination but had no particular training or expertise in risk assessment. The defendant said that they had looked into catalogues in the last few week before trial to see whether a suitable small trolley was available but had found nothing.
However, the Judge said this did not seem to be a thorough or systematic search to deal with the particular situation. On balance, the Judge found that, if a suitable risk assessment had been done, it would have identified the risks associated with lowering such a heavy load to the ground and then steps would have been taken to search out or commission a piece of equipment to assist with this process.
The defendant had not discharged their burden to show that they had taken appropriate steps to reduce the risk of injury to the lowest level reasonably practicable.
Judgment for the claimant.
Ilford County Court, 5 November 2009.