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Upper Limb Disorder Caused by Work Conditions

A former machine operator has recovered a five figure settlement from his employer after developing a work related upper limb disorder.

Mr P worked on a production line requiring him to load bottles into a machine which was fixed in an awkward position. This job placed a heavy load on his arms which were working at unnatural angles. The awkward posture adopted by Mr P arose because he was a left-handed operator, using a machine which had been designed for use by a right hander.

Over a relatively short period of time, Mr P developed tenosynovitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow.  The pain was such that he was signed off from work with reduced pay. Though Mr P has now returned to work and has been resituated away from the offending machine; his recovery has taken nearly 2 years and he still suffers with intermittent pain and twinges.

What is unusual about this case is that the employer carried out a risk assessment before putting the client to work on that machine. Ordinarily, a good risk assessment would have picked up on potential hazards and this particular injury could and should have been avoided. However, the risk assessment was carried out without Mr P being there, despite the fact he was one of only 2 employees who were intended to use it. The employer failed to take account of the fact that Mr P was left handed and it was the awkward angles created by the right-handed set up of the machine which caused Mr P’s injury.

The compensation awarded in this claim goes some way to reimbursing Mr P’s lost earnings, as well as reflecting the fact that he is still affected by pain and twinges. 

The case is unusual because it shows that employers need to do more than simply carry out a risk assessment.  This injury could very easily have been avoided if the client had been involved in the risk assessment process or had the employer taken a step back and simply looked at what the process involved.

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