Safe Use of Disability Equipment and Manual Handling: Legal Aspects – Part 1, Disability Equipment

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This is a two-part article about legal aspects of safety in two overlapping areas of work relevant to occupational therapists: disability equipment and manual handling.

This first part, on safe use of equipment, considers negligence, consumer protection and health and safety at work law, including codes of practice, guidance and notices from bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive and the Medical Devices Agency. A number of common and relatively straightforward themes are picked out through what otherwise might appear to be a forbidding body of law; these are illustrated with practical examples.

It is argued that in judging whether a particular action or omission was unlawful and breached safety obligations, the courts do not generally resort to incomprehensible principles. Instead, they often, in effect, simply hold up a mirror to the professional(s) involved and ask whether reasonably competent or practicable steps were taken. To the extent that this is so, it is clear that avoidance of legal liability is very much more within the power of occupational therapists and their employer organisations than is often supposed and that such avoidance is consonant both with patient and client welfare and with good professional practice.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2001

More about this publication?
  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at

    Submissions can be made at

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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