A Care Assistant who was hurt whilst lifting a resident at The Grange Residential Care Home in Darlington has won £8,000 compensation from her former employer after injuring her back and subsequently losing her job. The case was brought with the assistance of trade union GMB and Thompsons Solicitors.

In August 2005, Mrs Margaret Yates, now aged 58, of Darlington was required to help dress an elderly lady who was immobile. Together with a colleague, Mrs Yates had to drag the lady up off the bed whilst reaching around to pull undergarments up resulting in an injury to her back.

No access to lifting and handling training

Commenting, Mrs Yates, said: “Very often we were dealing with very frail residents who simply couldn’t help themselves. On this occasion my colleague and I had to support the full bodyweight of this very elderly lady and I did my best under the circumstances as I would for any of the residents. If I’d known how to dress her or any other of the residents properly, or been given access to training, I would have adopted a safer method instead.”

“Unfortunately, I ended up with a back injury and was in a lot of pain. For several weeks after the accident I was unable to perform simple domestic tasks and eventually I was forced to leave my job.”

Unsafe system of work led to injury

The GMB said: “Mrs Yates’ case highlights certain deficiencies in the private sector in terms of providing training and instruction of staff in safe handling techniques when assisting residents in care homes. This not only puts the staff at risk but there are also issues as to the safety and dignity of the residents.”

Mrs Yates’ representative at Thompsons Solicitors, Diane Davison, said: “The employers operated an unsafe system of work in allowing a drag lift to be used. Legal proceedings had to be issued when St Martin's Care Limited of Sunderland, who owned The Grange and a number of other care homes, repeatedly ignored requests for information and documentation. Employers should be warned that the courts will take a dim view when they refuse to engage in due legal process resulting in heavy costs penalties."