In the 12 months between 2016 and 2017, slips, trips and falls made up 24 per cent of all serious workers compensation claims in the country, according to Safe Work Australia.
No matter the impairment, injured employees only have three years to submit a claim for compensation, according to the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW). In the below case, one plaintiff who was injured at his place of work failed to meet these time requirements. But was he still successful in his claim?
Background of the accident
On February 2, 2012 at around 6:00p.m, the plaintiff commenced work at the defendant’s factory. At 9:30p.m he walked towards one of the automated electromechanical machines (also called a CNC machine). To do so, he had to walk on a metal floor.
The CNC machine had a large spindle, and the plaintiff recalled oil leaking from this onto the metal floor that surrounded the equipment. He claims the machine had been leaking oil for some time and had complained about it on numerous occasions prior.
Furthermore, a coolant that was sprayed onto the machine during the milling process fell onto the floor in liquid form. The combination of oil and coolant made the metal floor slippery and dangerous. As the plaintiff crossed the surface, he slipped. His shoulder hit the machine and his right leg fell into a nearby pit.
The plaintiff was taken to hospital via ambulance and treated for his injuries.
On June 20, 2018, the injured worker filed a statement of claim alleging that the defendant was negligent, and such negligence caused injury, disability and loss.
How did the defendant respond?
By a defence filed on July 18, 2018, the defendant denied negligence and alleged contributory negligence instead. The factory also made the court aware of the missed three year time requirement for workers compensation claims.
What did the court decide?
The court believed the plaintiff when he claimed he was not aware of the three year time limit on such claims, and had merely followed the advice of his legal team. As such, he was granted special circumstances.
During proceedings, the court referred back to the machines that had been leaking. It concluded that equipment shouldn’t leak oil in any circumstance, and complaints shouldn’t have been ignored. Workers should not have been expected to carry out manual labour whilst walking on a surface that was constantly slippery and unpredictable. The defendant failed to fix the issue at hand and was determined negligent. The plaintiff was awarded a total of $448,483 in damages.
Have you been injured at work as a result of someone else’s negligent behaviour? Get in touch with the workers compensation legal team at Gerard Malouf & Partners to see how we can help.