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Employer found liable for a lumbar spine injury

15 December 2022

In the recent Queensland District Court decision of Norsgaard v Aldi Stores (A Limited Partnership) [2022] QDC 260, the Court considered the issue of whether the Defendant's manual handling training was sufficient in preventing risk of injury to an employee lifting cartons of tomatoes.

Norsgaard v Aldi Stores (A Limited Partnership) [2022] QDC 260

Facts

Lucy Norsgaard (Plaintiff) was required to undertake the unloading and stocking of tins of canned tomatoes in the course of her employment at Aldi (Defendant), which included lifting three cardboard trays (weighing 15 kilograms in total) from an ambient pallet. As she performed the lift and took two steps whilst carrying the load, she lost control of the load and suffered a musulo-ligemantrous injury to her lumbar spine. The evidence presented at trial was largely consistent in that upon commencement at Aldi Brassall, employees received a long induction and training process, largely conducted by way of online modules. However, there was also evidence that there were very specific deadlines and targets for the employees to meet, otherwise they were to be performance managed.

Issues

The Plaintiff alleges the Defendant failed to adequately train her in manual handling techniques, that any safe manual handling practices were not enforced by management and that there was an emphasis on speed and completion of the tasks rather than the safety of the employees. The Defendant denied that the task was to be completed in an unreasonable time frame and that the Plaintiff failed to follow directions regarding safe lifting. 

The Defendant's assertions were not accepted by Jarro DJC.

Decision

Jarro DJC held that the training the Plaintiff received was lacking and that a more thorough testing of the initial training in manual handling should have occurred. Jarro DJC held that clear, explicit instructions given about the maximum weight a staff member should lift needed to be communicated by the Defendant. He noted that the demonstration in the video beared limited resemblance to the manual lifting task the Plaintiff was conducting at the time and as a consequence, breach was established. 

The Plaintiff was awarded $157,767.71.

Take away for Employers

This case, like many previously decided, reaffirms the high standard of care placed on employers to ensure they provide adequate and specific training to employees, particularly in manual handling situations.

If you require further information or have any queries in relation to this legal update, please contact Meenakashi Jansen (Senior Associate)

We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Stephanie Dunell (Solicitor) to this article. 

Further Reading