Written by Peter CarterApril 15, 2014
Darren Verney had already borrowed 20 full loads of blue metal crusher dust from a stockpile to a boxed section of the pathway under construction some distance away, into which it was to be compacted as a base for a concrete pour.
He was engaged by The Mac Services Group in the construction of an accommodation village for the Coppabella open cut coal mine west of Mackay. On the next load not long before knock-off time, after crossing a plank over a just poured path, he turned right along the top of an embankment when, suddenly, “something broke”.
He lost his balance and fell down the embankment with the load tumbling over him and sustained a serious back injury.
The best description offered was that the barrow had a metal frame and pneumatic tyres. No photographs of the actual machine or even of others like it, were offered to the court. Co-worker Matthew Wicht saw Darren walking the barrow load towards him when he saw him “starting to fumble and the wheelbarrow went over”.
He inspected the machine and saw that a bracing strut near the wheel had failed were, it appeared, a weld had been made by way of a repair. He also described a history of failures and repairs to the wheelbarrows supplied by the employer and that there had been unresolved complaints about their condition and of other equipment at toolbox meetings.
Other co-workers reported that “wheelbarrows would continue to snap”.
On this basis His Honour concluded that there had been a breach of duty owed by The Mac to the Darren. Total damages were assessed at $683k based on being unable to return to full-time employment in his parents’ electrical business.