Worker awarded $24,000 in damages after sustaining third degree burns

Date:May 07, 2019

In the 12 months between 2013 and 2014, there were nearly 5,500 hospitalised burn injuries, according to the latest research from the Australian Government. As the below case demonstrates, these aren't always a result of contact with heat and hot substances. But what happened in this recent workers compensation claim that resulted in one employee sustaining third degree burns whilst on duty?

Background of the victim

The offender was a registered corporation operating as a hotel in Queanbeyan, NSW.

In April 2016, the victim was employed as a casual worker performing basic kitchenhand tasks. He was 17 years of age at the time. The offender instructed a number of experienced staff to supervise the victim at work. As part of his induction, the victim was told to wear enclosed (non-canvas) shoes whilst working in the kitchen area.

Events of the incident

At all times, the offender used and/or stored hazardous alkaline chemical products in the kitchen vicinity.

On July 1, 2016, at around 5:00 p.m, the victim began cleaning the kitchen floor. He was wearing ankle boots made of a synthetic material that were not water resistant. He noticed the floor was already wet with a clear substance. The victim mopped up the liquid and resumed his other kitchen duties.

At around 8:00 p.m the victim felt pain in his feet but continued with his duties. He informed one of the supervisors that his feet were sore.

When he arrived home at approximately 11:00 p.m, the victim soaked his feet in a basin of cold water for 10 minutes and noticed they had turned black. He was then transported to the local hospital at around 11:30 p.m.

The victim was diagnosed with third degree alkali burns to both his feet. He underwent three skin grafts and remained in hospital for one month. Testing of his feet returned a result of pH 9-10. Anything with a pH of 8 or over is harmful to the skin.

What did the court decide?

The court found that the offender did not have in place, or failed to implement, a system to identify any substance that had been spilled, leaked or accidentally released. In addition, it added the offender did not provide proper safety gear to protect employees from potential risks of leaked alkaline materials. 

The offender pled guilty for breaching health and safety requirements. As a result, it was entitled to a 25 per cent discount on compensation payout, leaving the total award of damages at $24,000. 

If you've sustained injuries in the workplace as a result of negligence, you too could be entitled to compensation. Get in touch with the workers compensation lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners to find out more. 

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