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Crocker v Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Plymouth County Court, 23 January 2004

3 February 2004
The issues

Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 – Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 – Competent co-worker.

The facts

Mrs Crocker, a 47 year old nurse, sustained a back injury on 12 September 2000 whilst lowering a hospital bed to enable the patient to get off. The process of mechanically lowering the bed was a 2 person operation. She was therefore assisted at the time by an agency nurse (Mr Tucker) but she was the lead nurse. Mrs Crocker and Mr Tucker stood shoulder to shoulder at the foot of the bed. Mrs Crocker had to press a lever on the bed to lower it. At the same time, both she and Mr Tucker were required to support the bed. Unfortunately Mr Tucker mistakenly took hold of a frame at the end of the bed which was detachable. It came off in his hands, leaving the Claimant to take the weight alone. The Claimant however had attended a manual handling course only 5 days prior to the accident. There was a dispute about the precise nature of the training which the Claimant received. The Claimant alleged she was inadequately trained and, further, that Nurse Tucker was not a competent fellow worker. If he had been, he would have known that the frame was detachable. It was also alleged that the bed was defective and/or unsuitable but there was little evidence to support this.

The decision

1. The District Judge preferred the evidence of the Defendant’s manual handling trainer/ergonomics advisor that the Claimant had received specific training in the safe lowering of beds on the manual handling course 5 days before. She had not followed that training. She and Nurse Tucker should have stood at the bottom of the bed, one at each corner, partly facing each other. If she had done so, she would have been in a better position to see that Nurse Tucker’s hands were on the detachable frame and not the bed itself.

2. Even positioned incorrectly – shoulder to shoulder – she should still have been able to see that Nurse Tucker’s hands were positioned incorrectly.

3. As the lead nurse in control of the operation – not least because she was activating the lever – she should not have commenced the procedure until she was satisfied that it was safe to do so i.e. that she and Nurse Tucker were positioned correctly and holding onto the correct part of the bed.

4. The Defendant had in place a suitable and satisfactory manual handling policy and system of training. The literature included instruction in proper communication and team work which was absent on this occasion.

5. As to Nurse Tucker, who was of course an agency nurse, there was evidence that he had attended a manual handling course in 1998 and therefore had some proficiency in it.

6. The District Judge said there was no scope to say that the bed was either defective or unsuitable. The type of bed was commonly used in the Defendant’s hospital and elsewhere.

Claim dismissed.

Comments

For further information about this case contact Darren Salter at darrensalter@veitchpenny.co.uk

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