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Assessment of risk and training required for manual handling

D'Arcy v Corporation of the Synod of the Diocese of Brisbane [2017] QSC 103

Byrne SJA

31 May 2017

His Honour Justice Byrne of the Supreme Court in Brisbane found the employer liable for a back injury sustained by the Plaintiff during the course of her employment.

The facts

The Plaintiff, a disability support worker, injured her back when retrieving a client's 6kg wheelie walker from the boot of a car.

She alleged it became caught on some part of the car, causing her to have to apply force to remove it. In doing so, she injured her back.

Allegations against the employer

It was alleged that the employer had failed to train Ms D'Arcy in safely unloading the wheelie walker.

Trial Judge's findings

Although the Court accepted that it was a simple activity that could be performed without risk if a little care was taken, it did not follow that training was not reasonably called for in the interests of employee safety.

The employer had not instructed the Plaintiff in how to unload a wheelie walker from a car. The risk of injury was found not to be insignificant, and the risk could have been averted by simple instruction.

Minimal damages were awarded in circumstances where the Court found that the effects of the injury had long since abated, this view being confirmed by evidence of the Plaintiff attending the gymnasium and performing without apparent pain or restriction, activities difficult to reconcile with her complaints.