Manual handling – contributory negligence
M, a nurse, sustained a back injury when the care assistant who was helping her to lift a patient failed to take the full weight of her share of the patient. The court found that the employer had been negligent in that it had failed to adequately train the care assistant. However, the judge also made a finding of one third contributory negligence on M’s part. The finding of contributory negligence was based on evidence that M had suffered a previous injury to her back and had been given medical advice not to undertake heavy lifting work and, more importantly in the judge’s view, that M had not arranged the patient’s bed so as to maximise the best way of lifting. The judge took account of the fact that that there were written instructions in use at the nursing home which covered the importance of thinking through and planning the lift, arranging the room beforehand, and making sure that there was enough space in which to perform the lift. The way M had arranged the bed meant that she did not have a clear area in which to move and the care assistant had a much reduced area in which she could move. Further, M knew that the care assistant was untrained and inexperienced and that it was therefore particularly important for her to have adequate room in which to lift.