16 October 2000
Bad backs could boost insurance cost
By Alistair Driver
INSURANCE premiums to farmers could increase because more employees are suffering from back problems at work, safety officials have warned.
Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, made the prediction at the launch of European Safety and Health Week in London.
More than half a million working days are lost on farms every year due to injuries to backs, necks and limbs – more than double the national average.
The latest figures show an estimated 642,000 people in Britain believe their work is suffering because of a musculoskeletal problem affecting their back.
This costs employers up to 335 million a year. Around 4.8m working days were lost in 1995, with each sufferer taking an average of 11 days off work.
“Compensation claims are increasing and problems may affect employers insurance premiums,” Mr Callaghan told reporters on Monday (16 October).
The safety week was launched by the British athlete Roger Black, a former Olympic silver medallist who was plagued by injuries during his career.
A manual-handling video made by the Health and Safety Executive aimed specifically at farm workers will be unveiled on Tuesday (17 October).
The video highlights the importance of using the correct techniques to move heavy loads, including livestock, around the farm.
A new leaflet for small businesses, called Back to Work, has also been launched. More than 60,000 action packs have been distributed.
Emma Tait, executive director of Backcare, an organisation dedicated to back problems, said that gentle activity could help relieve back pain.
She tried to dispel the myth that patients should rest up in bed. Although about a third of GPs tell back patients to rest, such advice is wrong, she said.
John Monks, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said one in five people employed in small businesses have back problems.