In NSW, more than 12,000 workers were injured after falling from heights in the three years between 2014 and 2017, according to SafeWork NSW. Unfortunately, these incidents often occur as a result of an employer's negligence, leading to complex workers' compensation claims. Who did the court side with in a recent case involving an injured worker who fell whilst working?
What were the events that occurred?
The plaintiff, aged 70 at the time of proceedings, was employed in the formwork and construction industry. In March 2015, the Chilean-born labourer commenced casual work on the defendant's construction site. He was required to pick up large sheets of plywood to make way for concrete filling, without manual or mechanical assistance.
On the day of the accident (May 29, 2015), the plywood sheets had become soaked with water due to heavy rain. This increased the weight of the formwood to around 20 to 40kg. The plaintiff was standing on a scaffolding plank and lifted a plywood sheet to his chest. In doing so, he lost his balance and slipped and fell, hitting his head, leg, knee and backside.
No-one witnessed the accident so there was a delay before someone came to help.
What happened after the accident?
Following the incident, the plaintiff sought damages for his injuries, claiming the defendant (the owner of the site) was negligent in their duty of care to him. The defendant denied any negligence, and instead raised a defence of alleged contributory negligence by the plaintiff.
For this reason, the site owner sought a reduction in any damages awarded to the worker.
What factors did the court assess in the workers compensation claim?
It became aware that the plaintiff had always engaged in relatively heavy work, however, during this time, he had incurred a number of work-related injuries. These included knee, shoulder and spine issues. Despite his injuries, the plaintiff, until the day of the incident, expressed he was sufficiently fit to fulfil his work duties.
Numerous doctors confirmed his injuries were new, rather than those relating to previous ailments. The court also found the defendant's witnesses unreliable, while the plaintiff was deemed a truthful witness due to the accuracy of his statements compared to medical reports.
The court concluded that the defendant failed to provide proper supervision on an awkward task. Therefore, the plaintiff was awarded $138,515.06 and the defendant ordered to pay costs of proceedings.
If you've been injured in the workplace and it wasn't your fault, you may be eligible for compensation. Get in touch with the workers' compensation lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners to find out how we can help you.