WRULD Claims heard in Courts in England, Scotland and Wales

Hearing(s) - Coles -v- Kemutec Powder Coatings Ltd

Date Court Claimant(s) Task Injury Judgment for
23 Sep 2008Exeter CountyColesUse of hand held tools, setting up machineOsteoarthritisDefendant

Mr Coles worked in the Defendant's machine shop as a Radial Drill Operator from 1984 to July 2004, when he stopped work due to symptoms of osteoarthritis in his right wrist. Mr Coles claimed that the repeated insertion of drill bits and drill chucks into the spindle of the radial drill and striking a hammer against a taper when removing the drill bits and drill chucks from the spindle caused a repeated percussive force to be applied to his right wrist, which accelerated the onset of osteoarthritis in his right wrist. The osteoarthritis in his right wrist predominantly affected the capitate and lunate joints, but also to a more limited extent the radiocarpal joint. About a year after the Claimant ceased working in the Defendant's machine shop he also developed osteoarthritic changes within the capitate and lunate joints in his left wrist. Prior to the trial, it was alleged that the condition of the left wrist had been affected by the percussive effects that had exacerbated the condition in the right wrist. However, in his evidence the Claimant accepted that for the most part he did not use his left hand to insert or remove the drill bits or the drill chucks and that he usually held the hammer in his right hand. Mr Recorder Spink found that the Claimant's occupation made no significant contribution to the osteoarthritis in the Claimant's wrists and thus the Claimant's claim failed.

With respect to the allegedly injurious tasks, Mr Recorder Spink found: that the number of times in a day that the Claimant would have to change drill bits or the chuck varied depending on the particular job and that the frequency of use increased as the drill bits decreased in size; that on some days, he might be required to change the heavier drill bits which did not use the chuck up to 40 times in the day, i.e. about 5 or 6 times per hour or once every 10 to 12 minutes. However, these days were relatively rare compared with those days when much of the drilling required the use of smaller drill bits that could be inserted and removed from the chuck using the chuck key. The latter was the usual pattern. However, there would never be a day when he did not change a drill bit or chuck in the way complained of at least once; but that the very heaviest drill bit (weighing 12.5 kg) was only used very rarely, perhaps once or twice a year. Nevertheless, the Defendant was found to have been negligent and in breach of Regulation 4(1) of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations in failing to take steps to reduce the risk of a lifting injury with respect to the insertion of the drill bits and drill chucks into the drill spindle, but not with respect to the use of the hammer.

Mr Recorder Spink concluded that even if the Claimant had established that the onset of osteoarthritis in his right wrist had been accelerated by his duties as a Radial Drill Operator, the period of acceleration was only 3 years, but that he had also failed to establish that such acceleration was attributable to the breaches of duty and negligence found. The Judgment records that had the Claimant's case on causation succeeded to the limited extent identified, i.e. a 3-year period of acceleration, the total damages awarded (including interest) would have been £38,780.19, consisting of: general damages of £6,803.55; and £31,976.64 for loss of earnings.

It appears that the finding of negligence and breach of Regulation 4(1) of the Manual Handling Operations Regulations in failing to take steps to reduce the risk of a lifting injury was based, at least in part, on the premise that exceeding the guideline figures for lifting and lowering in the risk filter in the HSE's guidance the Manual Handling Operations Regulations, albeit infrequently, gave rise to a risk of injury that would somehow have been reduced by the introduction of some system of task rotation.


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Last updated: 16/10/2009