This was a manual handling case in which the claimant, a care worker in a care home, sustained a back injury after a tenant with mobility and learning difficulties had fallen to the floor. As the carer looked over her to check on her condition the tenant grabbed her hands and wrists to pull himself back up and injured the carer.
The defendant’s witnesses both stated that the claimant approached the situation incorrectly. Her line manager said that it was commonly known what to do when someone was on the floor, that is to wait for them to calm down and assess the situation at a distance. Her trainer said the Claimant should not have gone so close to the tenant that he was able to grab her hands.
Both witnesses however accepted that the claimant had not been trained not to get within grabbing distance of a person lying on the floor.
The Judge not persuaded of our pleaded allegations that there was inadequate lifting equipment or inadequate staff. There was not enough room to use equipment in the room and the claimant could have called for assistance with a phone.
However, he accepted that the tenant’s risk assessment identified a risk of his falling. The Judge said it is “fair to say, there is no history of the tenant falling, but it is a real possibility.” The question was whether the risk to the Claimant in this situation had been reduced to the lowest level reasonably practicable.
The Judge concluded that there was no thorough risk assessment for when someone fell to the floor. He thought the claimant was an ideal carer for someone with disadvantages and he quite understood why she tried to help him.
He accepted that she should have sat herself from a distance when assessing whether he was injured but also accepted that she had not received any training to that effect.
He concluded: “In the absence of a thorough risk assessment and specific direction to the claimant (to stay out of reach of a grabbing patient) , I think there was a breach of duty.”
Norwich Combined Court, 23 July 2010.