Safe Use Of Machinery

Legislation governing the safe use of equipment is primarily aimed at preventing catastrophic injuries from machinery. But a 2013 case considered whether the Regulations also covered ergonomics issues. What was the outcome?

Back Pain

Corus (C) provided a number of overhead cranes which ran on rails in their steelworks. To operate the cranes drivers used an overhead cab. The case of Willock & Others v Corus UK Ltd 2013 concerned claims from a number of drivers suffering from backache caused by the posture they had to adopt. Specifically, they cited the need to look below to watch the load.

Seeking a solution

By 2003 it was evident to C that there was a problem. An ergonomic assessment was carried out in 2005. The expert suggested a number of changes, including reducing the size of the control station, fitting a rotating seat and using CCTV to improve visibility below. A consequence of the layout changes was also a switch to joystick controls (unpopular with the drivers).

Managers were ready to implement the advice, but when staff “safety champions” were consulted, it became clear that the drivers were strongly against the ideas. In the end only one cab was repositioned. Some of the drivers therefore continued to suffer with back pain.

The PUWER point

The key question considered by the Court of Appeal was whether C had breached Regulation 17(2) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. Regulation 17(2) states, “Except where necessary, the employer shall ensure that no control for work equipment is in a position where any person operating the control is exposed to a risk to his health and safety.”

For the full information bulletin, including the outcome to this case, please click here...