A Canberra-based electrician who suffered a number of injuries after he carried a 400kg switchboard has won $1.3m in workers compensation payments after the court ruled his employer put its employees at risk of injury.
The ACT’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mitchell Roberson, an electrician who was injured after he carried a 400kg switchboard while working for electricity provider, ActewAGL. Mr Roberson took his employer to court after sustaining a number of injuries that he believes were linked to lifting a switchboard weighing hundreds of kilograms, which caused him injuries that have left him unable to work.
Lawyers working on the behalf of ActewAGL argued that Mr Roberson sustained the injuries the day after the incident while picking up his four-year-old child. This accusation was dismissed by the ruling Justice Robert Crowe.
The ACT Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mr Roberson, awarding him $1.3m in workers compensation payments and ruling that ActewAGL took unnecessary risks in asking workers to carry a heavy load without a more effective safety system in place.
Acting Justice Robert Crowe while announcing the ruling has said that “the defendant was negligent in failing to provide appropriate lifting equipment to avoid the need for the plaintiff to manually lift the switchboard at the Canberra Airport.”
“The system of work which required four men to lift such a large weight, particularly in the awkward conditions created by the presence of the threat was, it seems to me, extremely hazardous,” Justice Crowe continued to explain.
According to a report from the ABC, “Lawyers for ActewAGL argued Mr Roberson may have actually incurred the injury the following day, when he picked up his four-year-old daughter.”
Justice Crowe denied those accusations, saying that Mr Roberson exacerbated the injuries he had already sustained by picking up his daughter, and rejected the case that it was the primary driver of his injuries.
The ABC’s report states that “in another instance, about 10 months later, Mr Roberson was required to work on top of a switchboard in an awkward position, when he felt a sharp stabbing pain in his hip and back, which he described as nine or 10 out of 10 intensity.”
“With regards to that injury, the court found that Actew/AGL had failed to minimise risk by providing a scissor lift, so Mr Roberson would not have to perch atop the switchboard to do his work.”
The claimant, Mr Roberson has said that as a result of his injuries, he felt “pretty useless,” and was unable to work to do a set of requirements from his doctor to help his rehabilitation effectively left him unable to complete some manual labor tasks.
Justice Crowe ruled that “it is clear the injury to the plaintiff’s lower back has had major consequences for his life… it has left him with a significant degree of pain and disability which he will likely experience for the rest of his life.”
Crowe awarded Mr Roberson $1.1 million for the injury sustained while carrying the switchboard, and $181,000 for his hip injury. Handing down his verdict, Crowe said that “I am confident that once the stresses and uncertainties of the litigation are in the past, he will reassess his career and seek to retrain so that he can use his undoubted skills and natural abilities in administrative or supervisory work.”