A recent decision of the District Court of Queensland has found that where appropriate manual handling training had been provided to an employee and their injury arose from a failure to comply with that training, the employer or host employer will not be liable for that injury.
In Tawera v BDS Recruit Pty Ltd & Anor  QDC 167, a labourer employed by the Brisbane City Council through a labour hire arrangement failed in his claim for damages after injuring himself while performing his duties. When faced with an obstruction preventing him from closing a door in a truck, the employee elected to kick the obstruction (which were bags of concrete), rather than lifting them out of the way. As a result, he ruptured his achilles tendon.
Judge Andrews SC found that the employee had received appropriate training from his employer in the proper way to move items including bags of concrete. On the occasion of his injury, he had elected not to follow his training.
Judge Andrews found that as it was the employee’s own action by kicking the bags rather than moving them more safely, neither the employer or Council were responsible for his injury. Therefore his claim for damages failed.
Implications for employers: This is a timely reminder for employers as to the benefit of proper induction courses and regular workplace training. The principles in this ruling also extend beyond training on the physical aspects of the job to include more behavioural requirements such as discrimination training and workplace bullying.
Employers will be well placed to defend claims where they can provide well documented evidence of appropriate training and demonstrate that an injury was caused by the employee not adhering to that training. Workers must assume some responsibility for their own safety at work and where their injuries are caused by their own actions, it may be open to the Court to refuse compensation as was the case here.
Lisa Aitken is an accredited specialist in workplace relations law and the principal of Aitken Legal, a law firm specialising in employment law for employers. www.aitkenlegal.com.au. The information in this column is intended as a guide only. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.