I injured my back driving a forklift truck at work but I am not sure if I am eligible to claim forklift truck injury compensation as I was not involved in an accident. Is it possible to claim for a repetitive strain injury due driving a forklift truck over rough ground?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Question:

I injured my back driving a forklift truck at work but I am not sure if I am eligible to claim forklift truck injury compensation as I was not involved in an accident. Is it possible to claim for a repetitive strain injury due driving a forklift truck over rough ground?

Answer:

You are entitled to claim forklift truck injury compensation for any injury you have sustained at work as a forklift truck driver, provided that the injury was caused by the negligence of your employer. Although you did not sustain your back injury in a forklift truck accident it does not mean that you cannot make a claim for forklift truck injury compensation.

A forklift truck repetitive strain injury to the back is certainly grounds for making a forklift truck injury compensation claim. Repetitive strain injuries are responsible for tens of thousands of lost working hours each year, yet they are injuries which can be easily prevented in the majority of cases. Employers should be well aware of the risks of repetitive strain injuries and should identify any potential areas of concern as part of a regular risk assessment in the workplace.

Steps should have been taken by your employer to reduce the risk of sustaining a repetitive strain injury, such as rotating forklift truck driving duties between members of staff. If the terrain was unsuitable for the forklift truck to be used safely, your employer should have arranged for resurfacing of the ground which required forklift truck use. A forklift truck designed to cope with rough terrain could also have been provided to reduce the risk or a repetitive strain injury being suffered. If it can be established that your employer has failed in a duty of care by not ensuring that a forklift truck could be used safely, then you should be able to claim forklift truck injury compensation for your back injury.

Many forklift trucks have a suspension system or shock absorbing seats which can help to cushion the driver when moving over uneven surfaces. Not all forklift trucks have this safety feature as it is generally not considered necessary for many operating environments; interior use over smooth warehouse floors does not produce sufficient shocks to warrant the extra cost of suspension for example. However, if you were required to use the forklift truck outdoors and the surface was highly uneven, a forklift truck with suspension may have been necessary in order to make sure you did not suffer repetitive strain injuries to your back.

In order for you to claim forklift truck injury compensation, you will need to establish that you sustained your back injury in the workplace as a direct result of the duties you have been asked to perform. You must be able to establish that your employer has been negligent for failing in a duty of care to protect you from coming to harm, such as by not providing the necessary equipment for you to perform your job safely.

Claiming forklift truck injury compensation for a repetitive strain injury has potential to be highly complicated, so it is strongly advisable to speak with a personal injury solicitor about your case. In the meantime you must see a doctor about your injury and have your condition properly diagnosed. You must also make a report in your employer’s accident book. Both are requirements if a forklift truck injury compensation claim is to be successful.