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Employer has duty to provide task rotation

Ataera v Thomas Borthwick and Sons Pty Ltd [2013] QDC

McGill DCJ

20 December 2013

Background

The plaintiff, a 26 year old woman, was a labourer at an abattoir. She developed carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive work placing lids on boxes.

Liability

The court essentially found that:

(a) the employer's duty required it to provide task rotation (not contentious)
(b) the employer did not provide a formalised system of rotation
(c) the failure to provide task rotation caused her injury

There were several points on whether there was rotation. The plaintiff said no, there was no rotation, while the employer said yes there was task rotation.

The plaintiff admitted she performed a variety of other tasks throughout the day. The figures accepted by the judge (work cycle of 19 seconds and 715 repetitions per day) show the plaintiff spent a total of 3.77 hours on the relevant task, being half her 7.6 hour shift.

Of the two medical opinions on causation, Dr Duke said rotation would not have prevented injury.

Whereas, a statement was made by Dr Olsen that "had risk management been performed diligently it is entirely likely that the plaintiff would not have sustained injury" to establish that the failure to provide task rotation caused the injury.

Judgment

Judgment was given for the plaintiff of $114,634.80.