Claiming Compensation for Work Related Back Pain
Work related back pain is the principle cause of absenteeism among employees in the UK. The latest figures reported by the NHS show that 9.3 million working days were lost due to back pain and related musculoskeletal disorders in 2008/09, costing the economy in excess of £5 billion a year. Most back problems affect the lower back, and are normally caused by strained or sprained muscles, tendons and ligaments. Very few of these types of injuries are likely to result in long-term medical conditions, though back pain does tend to recur, and disproportionately affects older workers whose bodies have been subjected to prolonged wear and tear. Even workers suffering from seemingly serious conditions such as slipped discs and trapped nerves usually make a full recovery within a relatively short space of time. Most back pain is avoidable however, and employers have a legal responsibility to take all reasonable measures to prevent workers from developing back injuries in the workplace.
Work related back pain can affect workers in any sector. Certain industries have a particularly high incidence, including agriculture, construction, transport and health (especially nursing). A recent survey of registered nurses found that 84% had suffered back pain during their careers which had caused restricted movement and adversely affected their job performance. Those in essentially sedentary occupations such as long-distance lorry drivers, and office workers spending most of their time in front of computers also face a far higher than average risk of developing back pain at work. Surveys show that work related back pain affects male and female workers in almost equal proportion.
The principle causes of work related back pain are lifting (manual handling) and poor posture. Lifting, pulling and pushing heavy or awkwardly shaped loads, especially on a regular basis, are common causes of back injury. Repetitive tasks such as bending, crouching, twisting and stretching may cause damage to the back over a period of time. Routine exposure to vibrations, operating a heavy duty drill or driving over rough terrain for example results in a similar effect, where the back is subjected to minor but constant strains. Posture also causes a variety of work related upper limb disorders and repetitive strain injuries, normally the result of poorly designed or adjusted work stations and office furniture. Other documented causes of back pain from work include working while physically tired and working under pressure in stressful conditions.
The fact that almost all types of back pain at work are preventable yet affect so many people has led to a raft of legislation which aims to minimise incidence rates. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 require employers to avoid hazardous manual handling tasks wherever possible by employing alternative working practices. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 aims to limit the amount of vibrations which employees may be exposed to during the course of their work, while the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 imposes strict ergonomic requirements for work station set up and design. Risk assessments are the most essential responsibility of employers in relation to back pain at work, as they should eliminate potentially dangerous activities when properly performed. Those suffering from work induced back injuries which have caused pain and suffering, loss of earnings or medical expenses should seek the advice of a specialist solicitor to see whether they may be entitled to claim compensation. Bartletts Solicitors have been defending workers and their rights since 1860, and have extensive experience with all types of work related back injury compensation claims.