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Lawyers Call For A Boost In Health And Safety After Bank Worker Is Injured

NatWest Employee Suffers Serious Back Injury Lifting Bags Of Coins


Experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell are calling for higher standards of safety training at work after securing a five-figure settlement to help a high street bank employee access vital rehabilitation for a back injury she suffered while lifting large bags of money.

Mary Deller, of Folkstone in Kent, was working as a full-time customer service officer and cashier for the NatWest Cheriton branch in Kent when she suffered the injury in September 2010.

The 26-year-old was left in agonising pain after she was asked to lift bags of coins – each containing £500 and weighing about 21 lbs – without proper health and safety training.

Despite the intense pain, Mary took painkillers and continued to go to work for another week before she was eventually bedridden by the problem.

Mary’s doctor referred her to a specialist spinal surgeon who diagnosed two bulging disks, which occur when disks in the spine move out of line. The accident aggravated a previously undiagnosed genetic degenerative spinal condition.

She instructed injury experts at law Irwin Mitchell to help recover her lost earnings and cover the costs for specialist rehabilitation from her injuries as she has now been off work since October 2010.

Sophie Davies, a workplace accident specialist at Irwin Mitchell, who helped secure the £18,500 settlement on Mary’s behalf, said: “Unfortunately we see many cases like Mary’s where people have been injured because they haven’t received any proper health and safety training by their employer. Back injuries like this can have a long-term impact on people’s lives and many struggle to get back to the active lifestyles they once had.

“We hope that employers learn valuable lessons from Mary’s experience to prevent accidents like this happening again in future. Employees have the right to go to work in a safe environment without worrying about the risk of injury.”

As well as preventing Mary returning to work, she has also been forced to stop living the active lifestyle she used to enjoy and can no longer go dancing, swimming and walking.

She said: “Lots of customers had been in during their lunch break to bank bags of coins, which had started to mount up behind the till area. I bent down to pick up two lots of coin bags, which had 500 £1 coins in, to put on a nearby trolley. I felt a click in my lower back and then an intense pain. At the time I thought I’d just pulled a muscle and carried on as normal.

“I managed to carry on working for the next week but my back was still painful and I was starting to rely on painkillers get me through the day. Eventually I couldn’t get out of bed because it hurt so much and my doctors signed me off work for eight weeks.

“I was so shocked when doctors told me I had such a serious back problem and that the incident at the bank had made it so much worse. I’ve been prescribed seven different kinds of tablets, including anti-depressants, pain killers and anti-inflammatories, which have made me feel light-headed and depressed.

“I just don’t feel like me anymore. I used to be really active and loved nights out dancing and exercising at the gym but now I’m hobbling around in constant pain.”

Mary, who originally got the job at NatWest through an employment agency before being taken on permanently in October 2010 says she wasn’t given any proper health and safety training, which could have prevented the accident.
She said: “I’m really angry that I wasn’t taught how to lift heavy things properly by NatWest because all this pain and time off work could have been avoided.

“I wasn’t given any health and safety induction or manual handling training or even just any general hints and tips about how to lift things without hurting myself. I was only given on the job training at the bigger Folkstone branch using a buddy system, which involved watching another cashier at work.

“I think people often take for granted that they won’t be hurt when lifting heavy things at work, so I hope my story shows how important it is for employers to provide the right training.”

If you or a loved one has suffered a back injury while at work and it wasn't your fault, our specialist accident at work claims team could help you to claim compensation. Read our Back Injury at Work Claims page for more information.