WRULD Claims heard in Courts in England, Scotland and Wales

Hearing(s) - Carpenter -v- Kohler Mira Ltd

Date Court Claimant(s) Task Injury Judgment for
7 Aug 2009Bristol CountyCarpenterOperating a thermostat calibration unitArthritic Shoulder Joint, aggravation ofDefendant

Mrs Carpenter claimed that she had sustained injuries to her left shoulder as a result of working on a production line assembling and calibrating thermostats, which involved among other things frequently lifting the sliding door of a calibration unit. The Claimant raised the door a distance of about 12", using her non-dominant left arm to about shoulder height. She performed this task, which took about one second, once every two minutes, for about half of her working day. The force required to lift the door was found to be about 2.4kg.

The uncontested expert medical evidence suggested that it was reasonable to consider that the repetitive lifting of the calibration door may have caused a potentially symptomatic left acromioclavicular joint to become symptomatic sooner than it otherwise would have done. The Medical Expert was of the opinion that if the door lifting was not within ergonomic guidelines then at most its use advanced Mrs Carpenter's symptoms by perhaps one to two years, but that if it was within acceptable guidelines then it had not contributed to Mrs Carpenter's ongoing symptoms.

A substantial part of the Judgment is devoted to a review of the competing arguments advanced by the Ergonomics Experts about the most appropriate ergonomic guidelines to use in this context, in the absence of any directly applicable guidance issued by HSE. The Ergonomics Expert instructed by the Defendant argued that appropriate guidance on one-handed lifting was to be found in an American text by Mittal. The Ergonomics Expert instructed by the Claimant criticised the use of Mittal's data and argued that the appropriate guidance was the risk filter in Appendix 3 of the HSE's guidance on the Manual Handling Operations Regulations, despite it being accepted on behalf of the Claimant that the Manual Handling Operations Regulations were not applicable because the load in this case, namely the sliding door, was not a discrete movable object and that the risk filter referred to two-handed operations.

Mr Recorder Hall preferred the evidence of the Ergonomics Expert instructed by the Defendant on this issue and concluded his Judgment by saying:

It follows from my findings that the defendant could not be said to have failed to apply appropriate guidance and guidelines which are applicable in this case and applying the test as set out in Stokes v Guest Keen & Nettlefold I do not find that the complainant, Mrs Carpenter, has proved on a balance of probabilities that the defendant fell below the standard to be properly expected of a reasonable and prudent employer in respect of the requirement of Mrs Carpenter to operate this machine.

Furthermore, in relation to the evidence in this case, as I have already indicated, it is highly significant that no other complaint had been made by any other employee of using this particular piece of equipment in the manner used by Mrs Carpenter, there had been no other report of injuries and that factor alone is highly indicative of the reasonable foreseeability of any problems that might have arisen. Going further than that, it is the case that the defendant, once alerted that the complainant had problems, immediately took action to alter the position of the handle and even when that was not found to meet the concerns of Mrs Carpenter the operation was automated so that the door could be closed by pressing a button. In other words, my finding is that what the defendant was doing in this case was dealing with a problem which arose in relation to Mrs Carpenter and dealt with that problem as soon and as sensibly it could.

My finding is that there were adequate and proper risk assessments in relation to this piece of equipment, an assessment having taken place in the year before the problem arose, and that the employer did undertake an appropriate exercise in weighing up the risk in terms of the likelihood of injury occurring and the potential consequences if such injury occurred. It is clear to me that this is a responsible employer who at all material times had an adequate and sensible system of testing the efficacy of the equipment used by its employees in relation to their health and safety

It is further clear to me that given the medical evidence ....., the claimant, Mrs Carpenter, was suffering from a degenerative condition of her left shoulder and that the fact she used this machine, I find as a fact, was not a contributing factor to the degenerative condition of her shoulder in any way. In other words I find that the door lifting was within acceptable guidelines, that the defendant could not be shown to have failed on a reasonable foreseeability basis to anticipate the problems, and I do not find that the operation of this door by Mrs Carpenter contributed to her ongoing and pre-existing conditions. Accordingly, the claim by the claimant fails.


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Last updated: 16/04/2010