In May 2008, a Queensland ‘Supa IGA’ worker was pulling a trolley loaded with 240kg of boxed washing powder when a co-worker called to her causing her to suddenly stop, resulting in the trolley slamming into her right heel.
The District Court head the matter, finding the workers employer failed to pay ‘close attention’ to the way staff handled such equipment. The Court found the employer breached its duty of care to the worker, but also found the worker was contributorily negligent.
The worker told the Court she had decided against pushing the trolley because a lot of stock was “lying around” and she didn’t have a good view of the corridor, during the Kingaroy Store fit out. The worker claimed she was in pain for weeks following the incident. but didn’t realise her injury was serious enough to warrant attending a doctor.
The employer argued that it was ‘remarkable’ the worker didn’t seek medical treatment until five months after the incident.
The worker also claimed she had not been trained in how to use the trolley or in OHS procedures, the employer argued she had received training.
Judge Smith found the worker had little experience handling the trolleys and it was dangerous for a female worker to pull a trolley weighing more than 240kg. Judge Smith also commented that trolleys were commonly used in IGA stores and “close attention should have been given to the way in which employees used the equipment”.
“It further seems to me that there were reasonably practical means of obviating this risk of injury, namely by assessment of the workplace and by providing training and instruction and direction to the [worker] as to the correct use of the trolley,” he said.
In finding the employer negligent, Judge Smith noted that the worker was contributorily negligent in failing to take reasonable care for her safety, as she was aware the trolley could hit her if she wasn’t paying attention to its use.
He awarded her $62,681, after a 25 per cent reduction for contributory negligence, and a $3481 reduction for workers’ compensation already received.