I hurt my back lifting a heavy patient on the ward but my manager insists I am not entitled to nurse work injury compensation because lifting heavy patients is a task I accept as part of my job irrespective of the risk to my health. Is she right?

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Question:

I hurt my back lifting a heavy patient on the ward but my manager insists I am not entitled to nurse work injury compensation because lifting heavy patients is a task I accept as part of my job irrespective of the risk to my health. Is she right?

Answer:

Inasmuch as there is an accepted element of risk when working in the nursing profession, you are still entitled to nurse work injury compensation if you have sustained an injury which could have been prevented had your employer taken greater care of your health. All employers have a “duty of care” to provide their staff with a safe environment in which to work and a legal obligation to conduct a risk assessment before any task is undertaken to identify hazards to health and eliminate them wherever possible.

In your case, your manager – acknowledging that a heavy patient had to be lifted – should have provided you with the equipment to complete your job safely with minimal risk of injury. Therefore you should have been supplied with a hoist, sling or other lifting mechanism to assist you with your duties or, if no such equipment was available due to a lack of resources, a second person to assist you while lifting the heavy patient.

You manager´s failure in her duty of care has made her liable for your injuries and you eligible to make a claim for nurse work injury compensation. However, before sending in an application for assessment to the Injuries Board Ireland, it would be advisable to collect proof of negligence in support of your claim for nurse work injury compensation in case your manager denies her liability for your injuries and subsequently packs the ward full of hoists and slings.

There is no need to support your nurse work injury compensation claim with anything other than a medical report and receipts for expenses when you submit an application to the Injuries Board Ireland, but it is recommended that you take photographs of your working environment, collect contact details of colleagues and patients who would testify that there was inadequate protection against injury on the ward and ensure that your back injury has been reported to the HSA if it resulted in an absence from work of more than three days or if you returned to work within that time but were unable to carry out your normal duties.

It would also be advisable to discuss the circumstances of your back injury with an experienced Irish solicitor, who will review your nurse work injury compensation claim, advise you whether you have a claim for nurse work injury compensation which is worth your while to pursue and, if so, assist you with completion of the application for assessment to the Injuries Board Ireland. You solicitor, with that background information, will also be able to represent you in a claim for compensation for nurse work injury should your manager deny her liability for your back injury.

As the ward may fill up with hoists and slings soon after your intention to make a nurse work injury compensation claim is announced, it may be in your best interests to speak with an experienced Irish solicitor at the first practical opportunity.