A concreter who turned to heroine to manage back pain which began after he sustained a serious workplace injury has been rewarded $820,000 in damages. Other employers should learn from this incident about the importance of protecting workers from workplace incidents.
Another important lesson this incident teaches is that any incidents or near misses should be reported and all injuries no matter how seemingly small should be addressed because they can deteriorate down the lines if not sorted out immediately.
The man involved Dominic Fischetti was a self employed concreter who was subcontracting when the injury occured while he was loading 3 large pieces of concrete onto a truck.
This excerpt from an article on CanberraTimes.com.au explains further:
Dominic Fischetti, 50, was a self-employed concreter subcontracting on a project in Nicholls when the injury occurred in 2005.
Mr Fischetti was asked to load three large pieces of concrete onto a truck, damaging his back in the process.
He reported feeling something go in his back and suffered severe lower back and right leg pain in the days and weeks after.
Mr Fischetti continued to work for three months, but decided to seek medical treatment after the pain did not improve.
A scan revealed a disc protrusion and he was advised to think about a new career. But he had only ever been a concreter and was unqualified for other work, so continued in his job for another two years.
He managed the pain with painkillers for a time, but his back became steadily worse. Mr Fischetti then began using morphine tablets, smoking opium, and injecting heroin, which he found provided more effective relief.
This incident is eye-opening because it demonstrates how workplace injuries can have an effect on every aspect of a person’s life, professionally and personally.
Mr Fischetti’s heroine use continued for 8 months before he quit and joined a methadone program which he was still on at the time of the court case – proving just how long lasting and serious the effects of his injury were.
According to the report the company was unhappy about the speed at which Mr Fischetti worked at and he began receiving less work from them as a result of the injury. Later that year he had to give up working altogether because he could not cope with the pain, so his livelihood was taken away.
Injuries on the job dont just affect workers physical wellbeing but their mental wellbeing as well. Fischetti was taken to Canberra Hospital in 2010 for depression as a result of his situation. His entire life was affected and this once active man was forced to give up all the hobbies he loved so much from soccer, to fishing, to camping and body building.
Although Mr Fischetti launched action against the defendent company, they alleged that the injury was as a result of the worker’s own negligence.
The post went on to explain:
The defence legal team said the plaintiff should have undertaken a risk assessment before lifting the concrete, should have obtained suitable equipment, did not take adequate precautions, and had failed to take reasonable care.
But Supreme Court Master David Harper rejected the argument, finding Mr Fischetti was not guilty of contributory negligence. Master Harper, in a judgment published this week, said the defendant owed a duty of care to take precautions against the risk of the injury that Mr Fischetti suffered.
“The available precautions were very simple. The concrete could have been cut into smaller pieces. More men could have been assigned to the task. A bobcat or some other mechanical means could have been used to move the pieces,” Master Harper wrote.
“The risk of injury should have been apparent to someone in the position of the defendant, as should the likely seriousness of the harm which might flow.”