Despite the fact that slips, trips and fall hazards claim the largest number of lives on worksites each year, it appears some employers do not take these hazards as seriously as they should.
An incident involving a fall 5 years ago is example of this and for her suffering the worker involved has been awarded $369,000.
The women suffered a trip while on the job which resulted in her injuring her lower back, tailbone and hip which then progressed into in a depressive disorder.
The woman was apparently taught and instructed to walk backwards quickly on the job when dealing with aggressive clients.
Read what a post on SafetyCulture.com.au had to say about the incident and hefty pay-out which it resulted in:
The Supreme Court Rockhampton on Friday awarded a 54-year-old disability worker $369,000 for an injury resulting from a work fall five years ago.
The female manager, who had been trained to walk backwards to better deal with aggressive clients, tripped, fell and suffered injuries to her lower back, tailbone and hip and developed a major depressive disorder.
Justice Duncan McMeekin ordered the disability charity to pay the woman compensation for her physical and psychiatric injuries and loss of earnings.
The court heard that staff were trained to walk backwards on the balls of their feet, in a slightly crouched position, while looking ahead at their aggressor and not where they were going.
The woman, who was 152cm tall, weighed 96kg and was “hardly athletic”, was demonstrating the “back steps” technique at a Rockhampton sports club when she fell.
“It seems to me clear beyond doubt that directing a middle-aged . . . overweight lady to walk backwards on the balls of her feet while keeping her attention directed not to where she was going but to the ‘aggressor’ in front of her . . . involves a risk of injury that she might fall over,” Justice Duncan McMeekin said.
The post goes on to explain how the employees of this company were taught by a trainer to walk backwards which the court found would increase the employees’ chances of injury.
Although this incident did not occur on a construction site there are similarities which members of the construction industry can learn from, particularly the need for employers to provide workers with a safe work environment and safe system of work. Clearly instructing workers to walk backwards does not constitute a safe system of work.
Although the law does hold the employer responsible for the safety of the work environment in general, workers also have an important role to play. Workers need to be particularly cautious when there is a possibility of slipping, tripping or falling and exercise common sense when engaging in these activities.
Although the woman involved did receive a hefty pay-out, no amount of money can compensate for the physical and emotional damage that such a serious and debilitating injury can cause.