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Fatigue Management plans a must for shift workers

Kerle v BM Alliance Coal Operations and ors [2016] QSC 304

McMeekin J

16 December 2016

The Supreme Court in Rockhampton found the employer, a labour hire company, the mine owner and the host employer all liable for Mr Kerle's injuries, including a brain injury, sustained in a motor vehicle accident.

The facts

Mr Kerle suffered significant injuries in a single vehicle accident whilst driving home from work after four consecutive 12-hour night shifts. He was approximately four hours into a five-hour journey when his car left the road and hit a guard rail.

Mr Kerle was employed by a labour hire company and placed with a host employer at a mine owned by BMA.

Allegations against the employer

The claims against the employer included inadequate training and education of its employees about fatigue and failing to properly inform itself about the level of induction and training provided by the host employer.

Trial judge's findings

The Court found that fatigue was the likely cause of the accident, Mr Kerle having no memory of events leading up to it.

The Court found that the risk of accidents caused by fatigue was very well known and could have been obviated by a number of measures including:

  • Decreasing shift length;
  • Education of workers about the signs of fatigue;
  • Providing rest rooms for end of shifts; and
  • Providing transport such as buses.

The Court found all of the three Defendants liable, with the labour hire employer being 40% liable compared to 60% against the host employer.

The employer was not able to delegate its duty of care to the host employer who was found to not have provided adequate training or induction about the risks of injury due to fatigue. It further failed to enforce a policy of rest before long journeys after completion of rostered shifts.

The quantum of damages had previously been agreed on between all parties.