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Written by Peter Carter

March 24, 2016

Paul McGreevy started his March 2012 shift at the Cannon Hill abattoir about 5:30 am. By 7:00 am there was a back up of carcasses along the automated process line.

McGreevy asked his supervisor to reduce the pace of the process line – because of that backup and because his metal mesh glove tensioning device had broken – but the supervisor declined to do so.

The backlog of carcasses got worse. This meant the plaintiff was required to work further away from the conveyor belt and his normal workstation to avoid standing “shoulder to shoulder” with co-workers.

And it meant he had to throw the 10-15kg cuts of meat – against standing instructions – a distance of about 1.5m onto the conveyor belt instead of letting them fall on to it.

He looked for a supervisor but no one was there. He couldn’t leave his post to find one as the continuous chain would surely back up, resulting in the disruption on the floor and disciplinary measures against him.

In throwing a carcass piece he had cut, he stumbled and sustained a back injury.

McGreevy’s case was that there ought to be in a supervisor on the floor monitoring the chain to authorise it to be slowed in the event of a backup that might cause staff to move away from their allocated positions.

This was even more important on Monday is because boning carcasses was more time-consuming then as a result of meat hardening after weekend of refrigeration.

Justice David Boddice in Brisbane’s Supreme Court agreed.

He concluded that the supervisor was in fact absent from the boning floor to attend to administrative matters.

“The failure to have a supervisor in place on the boning floor on the morning in question placed the plaintiff in a position where he was at risk of injury,” ruled the Judge.

Whilst the meatworks discouraged boners throwing meat portions even when positioned off the conveyor, it was aware that boners did so from time to time and ought to have taken measures to prevent any increase in the likelihood of that practice occurring.

His Honour concluded that as a result of the incident, McGreevy developed significant pain and disability and was unable to work.

The evidence of orthopaedist Richard Williams was preferred over that of neurosurgeon Scott Campbell with the court ruling there was no significant ongoing permanent injury.

As a result, damages were assessed at a relatively modest total of $125k, inclusive of $50k for future injury-related periods off work.

McGreevy v Cannon Hill Services Pty Ltd [2016] QSC 029 Boddice J 01/03/2016

Categories: Personal Injury , Litigation & Law Practice

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