Manual handling trials

One off Lift: 14.5kg

The claimant was replacing a blade, which was a working part of a printer. This involved lifting a weight of approximately 14.5kgs at arms length over a small 'lip' at the back of the machine before pushing it into place. He suffered injury to his lower back.

None of the defendants’ three witnesses had been directly involved in training the client in the correct manner to do the task. They alleged that the client hadn't done the task properly yet one of the witnesses had assessed the client in carrying out the task and had passed him as competent. The person who had carried out the risk assessment for the task had not even watched the task being carried out but had taken advice from management and an engineer. 

The Judge found:

  • The risk assessment in respect of handling the machine was insufficient as it did not cover the blade replacement and did not consider the greater risk of carrying out a manual handling task at arms length. 
  • The manual handling regulations were breached as there was no evidence of any relevant training for the client
  • The machine had also been altered since the client's accident and she therefore found that there must have been a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 in that it had not been “suitably adapted” at the time of the accident.

Repetitive lifting

The claimant stacked newspapers and magazines in bundles. They were not that heavy but the volume of work was great. The defendant in theory had safe training policies of telling porters to split parcels if they became too heavy and instructions not to fill newspaper cages above eye-height.

But the reality was that intense time pressures and the hectic work environment meant the practice on the floor day to day was totally different. The Judge found management knew this.


  • there was a breach of s4(1) (b) (2) of the MHOR in failing to take steps to lessen the risk of injury
  • there was a further breach in failing to take account of the claimant’s pre-existing shoulder condition which was known to them
  • there was an unsafe system of work and therefore negligence.
  • There was no contributory negligence – in “getting on with it” he was doing as the defendant wanted and had never been reprimanded for that in the past.


The claimant was replacing sections of rail for London Underground. The rail was very heavy and a slewing bar was provided to move it. The rail  had to be moved into a recess on a chair by pulling the rail in with the pointed end of the slewing bar.

The claimant’s case was that a great deal of force was needed to pull the rail and in doing this he lost his balance and fell back.

A spring balance was set up in the court room where various witnesses demonstrated the force they felt was required for the job. The effort needed varied from 8-9 pounds by a defendant witness to 45 pounds by the claimant.

The Judge found the claimant had applied far too great a force to do the job. A single joint engineering expert gave evidence the force required was far less than the claimant had applied. The claimant said “I pulled my body backwards” and the Judge found that the cause of his accident was his stance.  Given the force required it was held there was no need to lean backwards.

The claimant said the training he had had was inadequate and that refresher courses should have been held. The Judge however found that manual handling training the claimant had had six months before the accident – that he should get close to a load and not bend his back – was sufficient training which, if put in practice by the claimant, could have prevented him from pulling his body backwards, ensured he had the correct stance and prevented the accident.

He had done the job several times before safely and it was held  the MHOR were complied with through the provision of a slewing bar to make a heavy job light .

The claimant knew what to do and had got it wrong, the Judge found. The accident was entirely the claimant’s fault. An alternative argument that the slewing bar was worn and thus a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment regulations was dismissed. Even if it had been  proved, the Judge found this was not the cause of the accident.

Nelson -v- London Underground Ltd, 11 August 2005, Mayors and City of London CC, HHJ Simpson