Afghan refugee awarded nearly $2 million after workplace injury

Date: Feb 26, 2018

The Supreme Court of Queensland has awarded an Afghan man almost $2 million following a serious back injury he sustained while working in an abattoir.

The plaintiff had a traumatic life leading up to the claim, having seen his aunt and uncle executed at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan. He fled the country and came to Australia via Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

However, after just one year in the country, he suffered a prolapsed disc in his back while working in a paunch room of a meat processing plant. His job involved removing parts of an animal carcass’s stomach.

How did the injury occur?

The man was employed on a labour hire contract with AWX, and he was contracted out to Teys Australia Central Queensland for employment in their Rockhampton abattoir.

He was the second worker in a two-person line-up. The first individual was responsible for attaching carcasses to a pair of hooks on chains and passing them to the plaintiff, who would slice away the animal’s third stomach.

The chains moved constantly and the plaintiff was expected to process approximately 1,600 carcasses each day, meaning one paunch was handled every 20 seconds.

His injury occurred when one of the chains pulled a carcass away from him, causing him to reach forward to snare it. This motion caused intense pain in his back and buttocks.

The defendants, Teys Australia and AWX, said the man’s prolapsed disc had not occurred in the incident for which the claimant was seeking compensation.

The judge’s decision

While there were inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s case, including prior visits to a medical practitioner for back pain, Justice Duncan McMeekin ruled the man’s employers had breached their duty of care obligations.

An expert witness said an acceptable system of work should have included:

  1. Documented safety procedures;
  2. Training in processes to prevent musculoskeletal damage; and
  3. Supervision to ensure desired behaviours are followed.

None of these were in place, meaning the employers did not take adequate precautions to prevent staff from injuries.

Justice McMeekin ruled that Teys Australia should pay the plaintiff $964,254, while AWX was liable for $921,083. The most significant heads of damage were for past economic losses and future lost earnings, together comprising $570,000.

The case emphasises the substantial sums of money that can be awarded in personal injury claims in Australia, particularly when employees have a long working life ahead of them.

If you have been hurt in an accident at work or in a public place, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers to find out whether you’re eligible for damages.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.