Dislocated shoulders at work are most common among males aged 25-40, engaged in physically demanding roles. A worker may suffer a dislocated shoulder following a fall from height, or simply due to a slip or trip, where the force of impact on landing is sustained by the forearm and shoulder. In public places such as supermarkets and car parks, older people are at the greatest risk of falling and dislocating their shoulders, especially if they are suffering from osteoporosis, a disease that progressively weakens the bones over time. When the shoulder is dislocated the humerus bone (upper arm) effectively pops out of its ball and socket arrangement with the scapula (shoulder blade). The shoulder is a complex joint, and one that is capable of a wide range of movement and flexibility. This makes it particularly vulnerable to injuries and dislocations from sudden and/or excessive force which pulls it outside its normal range of movement.
Most people will make a full recovery from a dislocated shoulder within 3 months, though for others residual effects may linger for many months or years afterward. An injured person may experience prolonged symptoms, including pain, aching, and loss of strength of grip. Compensation awards may exceed £12,000 for pain and suffering alone when these ongoing symptoms are pronounced. Dislocated shoulder injuries usually involve damage to muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround the shoulder joint. Often the important rotator cuff (a group of muscles that stabilise the shoulder) will be torn and become inflamed. A doctor will seek to treat a dislocated shoulder by realigning the bones and immobilising the arm in a sling, allowing the bones to reset and heal naturally. Possible long-term complications exist however, including conditions such as frozen shoulder, and the premature onset of arthritis in the joint.
In the workplace, dislocated shoulder injuries are common in busy environments such as construction sites and warehouses, where loads are constantly being lifted and moved. When a load is being lifted and carried the shoulder will bear much of the force, and if the load slips or is dropped the pressure may be enough to dislocate the shoulder. Hectic working conditions mean that often obstacles will be discarded in the path of workers, and it will be all the more difficult to maintain a safe system of work. Those whose jobs involve working at height are also at permanent risk of falling, from a ladder or scaffold for example, with the shoulder sustaining the force of impact on landing. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide workers with both a safe working premises and a safe system of work. All physically demanding tasks must be thoroughly risk assessed, and a mechanical alternative should be used whenever possible. An employer should also provide the appropriate safety equipment to workers where necessary.
Similar to employers, the proprietors of commercial premises such as shops and supermarkets owe a duty of care to their visitors, and must take all reasonable measures to reduce the risk of injuries as far as possible. Spilled produce, discarded cleaning fluids and pot holes in car parks all regularly cause falls and injuries, with older people particularly susceptible to accidents of this kind. Both employees and members of the public may require weeks or months off work following a dislocated shoulder injury. In some cases a worker may be unable to resume manual handling tasks at work, or may find their range of mobility substantially decreased. Compensation claims will take into account loss of earnings in these circumstances, as well as medical bills and other expenses. Damages for a dislocated shoulder will be highest where the injury has created residual, ongoing problems in shoulder joint, possibly amounting to a permanent partial disability.