Queensland Court of Appeal Justice Phillip Morrison has ordered Woolworths to pay an injured worker $231,000 in compensation. The former shop picker suffered a shoulder injury during his employment with Woolworths as a result of business practices which aggravated a pre-existing condition.
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The Legal Claim
The former shop picker was employed by Woolworths between 2010 and 2013, successfully obtained damages for personal injuries suffered during employment.
The employee claimed that Woolworths breached their duty of care to protect an employee from injury. The legal claim was that the use of performance targets and the fear of being sent home drove the employee to work faster. The employee also had a pre-existing shoulder condition, and his legal claim was that the stress of the job led to shoulder damage. The trial judge had dismissed the matter in 2016 arguing the former employee had failed to draw a clear link between the casual employment and the injury suffered.
On appeal at the Supreme Court of Queensland Justice Phillip Morrison stated that Woolworths required its workers to lift boxes of produce that weighed between 13 and 16 kilograms. He went on to state that “the system of work involved frequent lifting away from the body of weights in excess of recommendations of the Worksafe Victoria Guide to Manual Order Picking”.
The Court accepted the arguments raised that the employee was fearing the performance targets placed upon him led to shortcuts being taken to ensure his job security. The court found that this directly led to the employee’s injury.
What This Means For Businesses
The outcome of this decision is a warning to all businesses for the need to be proactive in managing their operations. The decision highlights the need to ensure policies and practices, particularly concerning employee activities within the workplace are constantly monitored and reviewed to ensure compliance with the Fair Work Act is maintained.
The significant financial penalties highlight the potential consequences that can occur when best practice processes and procedures are not followed by business owners and managers, regardless of size.
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