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Employer not liable for worker failing to keep look out

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Pershouse v Sirius Observatories Australia Pty Ltd [2013] QDC
Noud DCJ
9 May 2013

Background

The worker was employed in a marketing and administrative role by a manufacturer of fiberglass moulds. She allegedly suffered a head injury when she walked into the leg of a large fiberglass mould whilst walking across a production room.

The Plaintiff alleged the employer should have taken steps to prevent the Plaintiff from entering the production room, that the moulds should have been cordoned off or turned, so that the legs faced the walls rather than into the room. The employer alleged the incident occurred solely because the Plaintiff failed to watch where she was walking.

The facts

The 51 year old female Plaintiff had been employed for approximately 2 months at the time of the injury.

The Plaintiff walked through a workshop production area to speak to a supervisor. In the course of returning to the office and while looking down at some paperwork in her hand, the Plaintiff walked into a fiberglass mould the size of a dining table. The mould was standing on its side, so that 2 legs were projecting at around head height. It was necessary for the mould to be left on its side in this way so that the gel used in the mould could cure.

Judgment

The trial Judge found against the worker on liability and therefore dismissed the claim. The worker was also ordered to pay the employer’s costs.

The Court found that there was ample space within the workplace for the Plaintiff to walk around the mould that she walked into, and that she was aware of the mould, having seen it only moments before the incident.

It was not unreasonable for the Plaintiff to be permitted to walk through this area. Although the area was “incommodious”, it was not so unsafe that she should have been prohibited from walking in there. Further, it was not foreseeable that a person would walk into such an obvious object.

The Court was satisfied that there was no duty upon the employer to take any action to prevent the Plaintiff walking into the object. All of the remedial measures suggested by the Plaintiff were impractical, and only made sense with the benefit of hindsight.

The Court also held that the Plaintiff’s injury was only a transient bump to the head which caused no brain injury, or other consequential loss and damage. The court therefore found that if the Plaintiff has established liability she would have failed to establish any entitlement to damages at all.

Last updated
01 July 2015

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