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Employer obligated to properly instruct and warn employees

Munro v State of Queensland [2014] QDC
McGill SC DCJ
10 January 2014

Background

The Plaintiff was employed as a Registered Nurse at the Logan Hospital Psychiatric Unit. The Plaintiff along with other employees were required to undertake Aggressive Behaviour Management Training (“ABM Training”). As part of that training, the Plaintiff was performing the foot stomp distraction technique. After performing the technique, she stepped backwards and fell, breaking a finger as she put out her left arm to break her fall.

Liability/Quantum

Quantum in the matter was agreed at $60,000 clear of the refund.

Liability remained in dispute. The Plaintiff maintained that she was given inadequate training in relation to how to perform the foot stomp, and that failure to properly train her caused her fall. By the conclusion of the trial, she no longer alleged that the floor surface was unsafe, or that she should have been instructed to wear shoes with slippery soles to prevent her foot sticking to the mats.

The Court did not accept the Plaintiff's evidence about how the training was given. The Court instead preferred the evidence of the trainer.

The Plaintiff relied on expert evidence from Richard Turner. He advised that the training should have been structured to first teach the backwards stepping retreat manoeuvre (step and drag), then teach the foot stomp technique in isolation from the step and drag, and only after that combine the two techniques.

The Defendants objected to the evidence on the basis that Mr Turner was not an expert. The Court however accepted that he was an expert and relied on his evidence.

The Court ultimately found that:

  1. Moving backwards is a process which does necessarily involve some risk;
  2. The training provided did not break down the technique into its component parts;
  3. The risk of injury would have been reduced if the training of the two component techniques was undertaken separately;
  4. The Plaintiff would not have fallen and would not have suffered her injury if the training was provided in that way.

The judge therefore found that the training provided by the employer was negligent.

Judgment

Judgment was entered for the Plaintiff in the amount of $60,000 clear of the refund.