The pain, which travelled from her shoulder down to her hand, was so acute that the PCS member from Pontypool couldn’t raise her arm and wasn’t able to sleep. She had to undergo surgery as a result of the second injury.

The problems began after she was transferred from her job as an administrative assistant to work as a document handler at DWP Pension Services in Cwmbran.

Her work involved the repetitive handling of documents, moving heavy boxes of files on and off shelves and transferring them around the building on trolleys.

In June 2007 she was diagnosed with frozen shoulder, a repetitive strain injury caused by a lack of rotation and rest in manual work. She was prescribed pain relief and anti-inflammatory medicine but continued to work, performing restricted duties.

The second injury occurred just four months later. She was pushing a large load of boxed files on an old, heavy trolley when she felt a sharp pain in her stomach. Such heavy work had caused her to suffer a hernia.

Facing surgery and continued pain from her original injury, the PCS member approached her union for advice. PCS advised personal injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation on her behalf.

Thompsons argued that the DWP had breached manual handling regulations and was therefore liable for the member’s shoulder injury and her hernia. The department agreed to settle out of court for £7,850.

Phil Madelin, national legal services officer for PCS,said: “We’re pleased to have helped our member to secure compensation for her injuries. It can be very expensive to take out a personal injury case and it is times like this that it really pays to be part of the union.

“This case shows that decent health and safety protection are just as important in public services as everywhere else.”

Clare Nash from Thompsons Solicitors added: “Employers have a duty to provide correct training and carry out adequate risk assessments for tasks assigned to staff, and failing to do so makes them liable for any injuries that occur as a result.”

The old, heavy trolly has now been replaced with two lighter trolleys at the Cwmbran office and new safer handling techniques have been put in place since the injuries occurred. The PCS member’s shoulder injury has improved as a result of cortisone injections and she has recovered from her hernia after surgery.