Ergonomic Risks to Water Field Based Employees

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2015 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
27 January 2015

Recently, Thompsons Solicitors won an out of court settlement against United Utilities for an undisclosed sum on behalf of a UNISON field based Water Inspector member.

For several years, this member had used his Toughbook laptop computer in his small works van receiving and sending work on a job by job basis to his central office.

The member developed more and more acute back pains as a result and all the physiotherapy he received pointed to this work being the cause due to unnatural twisting and turning.

The employer prior to the hearing produced a safety briefing stating that toughbooks should only be used in the passenger seat and that users should avoid twisting to use the computer.

UNISON Safety Reps were however able to produce documents going back to the 1990’s including ergonomic studies, internal UU surveys, UNISON UU branch reports and recurring agenda items placed by UNISON on numerous Safety Committee agendas which proved that UU where well aware of the issues.

Despite UU settling out of court as a result of the documentation, the issue remains live and our members continue to put their long term health at risk.

This issue cannot be an issue isolated to UU and we call on the WET Executive to undertake a survey of other branches in Water and if appropriate in the Environment Agency and Transport to know the scale of the problem and to issue guidance to assist members in resisting this Health and Safety risk with their employers.