Q&A - Employer ignored broken chair that caused back injury. Can I claim compensation?

Q:  Months ago I complained to my employer about my broken desk chair which was forcing me to sit in the wrong position for typing. Nothing was done and I started getting back pain. My GP sent me for x-rays and it transpires I have a collapsed disc which has trapped a nerve in my back and requires an operation. I was told the operation may not cure the pain and I could be left with impaired movement. Can I sue my employer for compensation?

A:  Employers have a legal responsibility to protect employees (and contractors and visitors) from accidents and injuries on their premises, and to provide employees with the necessary tools to do their jobs and maintain them in a safe condition. Your desk chair was a necessary tool for your job as a typist.

Your employer should have carried out a risk assessment of the chair when you first complained about it and then taken measures to put the problem right. This is standard health and safety procedure. It would seem therefore that your employer is in breach of a duty of care and that you have adequate grounds to bring a compensation claim against him or her for causing injury due to negligence.

An issue here may be that although the defective chair may have caused some back pain it may be difficult to attribute the collapsed disc to the chair. This would be a matter for expert medical evidence.

You should carefully document everything from when you first told your employer about the broken chair and collect together medical reports and receipts for visits to the doctor and hospital, together with other out of pocket expenses. As there are strict time limits in place to make any injury claim you should consult an experienced local personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.


Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Partner and Complaints Handler

Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham