“We have a zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy, so we don’t have to pay compensation for the worker’s injuries.” Which case won?
Maintenance manager notices steam rising from plant premises when driving past after work
The plaintiff was the maintenance manager of a meat processing plant. He finished work at 3:30pm on a Friday, 12 June 2015, and met a friend at a hotel where they each had two schooners of mid-strength beer.
While driving home past his workplace at about 5pm, he noticed large plumes of steam venting from some large tanks due to a malfunctioning relief valve.
He phoned the boiler contractor, who told him that it was time-critical for him to find out which valve the leak was coming from before the steam ran out. This was so that the leak could be repaired on the weekend and the plant could open on Monday, as the tanks were essential to the processing.
Maintenance manager goes to investigate steam leaking from tanks
The manager went to investigate which pipe was leaking so that the problem could be fixed over the weekend. He could not see from outside, so he climbed up the steep metal stairs to the platform near the top of the tanks.
From where he was standing on the platform he was unable to see where the leak was, as there were three parallel pipes.
At first he leaned out through a gap in the railing, but still could not tell where the leak was because of the cloud of steam, so he stepped through the gap in the railing onto the roof of a shed. He was still on the phone to the boiler contractor at that time.
Maintenance manager falls through roof and suffers serious injury
It was winter and the light was fading, so the manager stepped onto the roof surface to get a better view. There was a section of the roof that had been replaced some years ago with a polycarbonate product called “Alsynite”.
He had known about the replacement, but not the exact area where it was. He stepped onto that section and it collapsed, resulting in him falling over seven metres onto a concrete floor and sustaining serious injuries.
He fractured his skull and injured his spine, knees and wrist. He was knocked unconscious and was eventually found by a truck driver making deliveries.
Dispute between worker and employer proceeds to Supreme Court
The manager sued his employer for negligence, which the employer denied.
It was up to the Supreme Court of Queensland to determine whether or not the worker should receive compensation.