Manual Handling Injury Claim for Co-op Warehouse Worker

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Our client, a Polish citizen, had worked in various manual handling roles in Scotland from 2007.

In 2015, he began working at the Co-operative Food Newhouse Depot in Glasgow, first as a warehouse picker and then a warehouse operative. He began to suffer upper back pain in 2018 and believed it was as a result of his job.

He was referred to Thompsons by his union so that we could make a manual handling injury claim on his behalf.

The Background

In the course of our client's employment as a warehouse picker with the Co-op he was required to carry out heavy lifting and manual handling of produce and cages. No lifting aids were used and our client did not receive any formal training on how to lift and move the heavy items.

He had been shown how to stack cases to prevent them from toppling, but was never advised on safe manual handling techniques and weight limits. Our client was unaware of any manual handling risk assessment reports in relation to his work.

In 2018, when our client developed upper back pain, he attended a private doctor in Poland to be examined. He was diagnosed with Scheuermann's Disease; a pre-existing skeletal disorder that causes irregular vertebral growth in the upper or lower back.

The doctor found various irregularities of our client's vertebrae and advised that the work he was doing had caused his back pain. He recommended that our client should stop lifting heavy items and undertake exercises to help alleviate the pain.

On returning to work and sharing the diagnosis with his employer, our client was referred to the company's Occupational Health team. He was provided with manual handling aids and a restriction on the weights he should lift.

He spoke on several occasions to his team leader and shift manager about his diagnosis and on each occasion some changes were put in place to his daily tasks, but for very short periods of time only before he was expected to resume heavy lifting.

In 2019, following another trip to Poland for examination and an MRI scan, his GP in Scotland also examined him and diagnosed several slipped discs in his spine. He was advised to undertake light duties at work.

The Consequences

Our client believed that his chronic back pain was a direct result of lifting and loading heavy cases over the course of three years without adequate manual handling training or lifting aids.

By 2019 he began to develop lower back pain as well. He was forced to use painkillers on a daily basis to manage the pain.

At times, our client was unable to work due to the pain. He paid for travel to and from Poland and for the private consultations and scans in Poland.

He believes his job prospects have been compromised as he will no longer be able to undertake warehouse work because this type of employment always requires some level of manual handling.

The settlement

Thompsons' personal injury solicitors recovered the injured employee's medical records and further instructed an expert medical report by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon. The surgeon's view was that our client has long-standing thoracic back problems due to his Scheuermann’s disease and suffers from degenerative changes in his thoracic spine which have been exacerbated by his work.

We sent our findings to our client's employer and intimated the personal injury claim. We did not receive a satisfactory response.

As the claim was close to the three-year time bar, we raised court proceedings in the All-Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh.

Liability was denied and we instructed a liability report from a consultant ergonomist who confirmed that the employer had likely breached their duty of care to our client (their employee).

An initial, personal injury settlement sum of £3,500 was tendered by the defender and our client instructed us to reject this offer.

The defender then put forward a further offer of £6,000 in full and final settlement and we advised our client that this was within the reasonable range of what a court would be likely to award if the case went to trial.

Our client then confirmed that he would accept this offer.

Settlement was agreed on 3 May 2022.

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