There has been two High Court judgments delivered over the last two years which are relevant to manual handling and safety consultants should take heed of them, and should note and implement / recommend to employers in order to avoid liability in claims by employees.
In the first judgement Ms Justice Mary Irvine in the Barry v Dunnes Stores case. The second case was by Mr Justice Anthony Barr in the Meus v Dunnes Stores case, which has just recently been referred to in the daily papers.
The two judgments highlight the importance of risk assessment, task-specific training, the non-dependence on video training as a complete solution, the need to train workers in a language they understand (e.g. foreign nationals) and the importance of on-going supervision thereafter by someone proficient in manual handling, i.e. trained.
The highlight of the first case, i.e. Barry, is the importance of saying no when asked to perform unsafe tasks by management/supervisors. To that end, the employee was found to be one third liable.
The second case focused on inadequate training with regard to risk assessment and supervision.
The Safety Manager gave evidence that he gave a demonstration of good lifting technique, using an A4 box of paper for the exercise which upon questioning admitted that this was in no way conducive to real time tasks (lifting large boxes) in the store as such was not adequate.
The Safety Manager said he showed a slideshow dealing with manual handling, followed by two DVDs on health and safety aspects, including one on the manual handling of loads. The plaintiff rejected this. It was notable that neither the DVD nor a fellow trainee was produced for evidential purposes.
The plaintiff was given a handbook on manual handling. She told the court that she had poor English as such a difficulty in understanding it. It was noted the health and safety manager did not ascertain if all present for the training understood the presentation.
After the training, there had been no follow up to check to see if the plaintiff was adopting the correct lifting technique. If there had of been adequate follow up and supervision, the company would have learnt that she was using an incorrect and dangerous method of lifting items as such this would have been spotted and corrected, possibly by re-training.
No risk assessment had been carried out in relation to the lifting duties of the plaintiff in her department. If one had been, it would have shown that she was required to carry a large and bulky box of significant weight. The risk of back injury would have been evident to all had a risk assessment been carried out. It was also pointed out that a task-specific risk assessment should have been carried out. See https://www.healthandsafetyreview.ie