The UNISON member from Swansea regularly lifted an elderly man, who weighed around 20 stone, from his bed to a wheelchair using an overhead hoist as part of the gentleman’s daily care and support.

The 56-year-old carer had asked her employer, City and Council of Swansea, for a sling with handles to make the procedure easier but they failed to provide this additional support.

During a routine visit to the man’s home in October 2009, she was moving him from the hoist to the chair when she felt a sharp pain in her lower back.

Degenerative spinal condition

The accident accelerated the onset of symptoms of a degenerative condition in her spine. Since her accident she has been unable to return to work because she cannot carry out the manual handling tasks the job requires.

She underwent a course of physiotherapy and painkillers to help control the symptoms in her back but still has on-going pain.

“The pain was unbearable at first. I had to stand up against the wall because I couldn’t support myself,” she said.

“I worked as a community care assistant for 23 years and I thoroughly enjoyed my job. An accident, which could have been avoided if I’d had better support from my employer, has ended my career.”

As a UNISON member, the care assistant was able to access free legal support from Thompsons Solicitors, who investigated her claim for compensation.

City and County of Swansea failed to provide appropriate support

Margaret Thomas, UNISON Regional Secretary in Wales, said: “The rotation of support staff when dealing with heavy patients is extremely important.

“It is not right that employees who provide daily care and assistance should be put under physical strain over extended periods of time. Unfortunately, our member can now only carry out a narrow range of physical tasks and this has severely limited her working capability, not to mention her day-to-day life.”

Alex Harvey, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that their staff are fully trained and supported if they need to carry out regular manual handling jobs. The City and Council of Swansea failed to do this and now a loyal employee is still suffering years after an avoidable accident.”