I worked with a woman a number of years ago and she has very bad scarring on the side of her face. Once I got to know her better I asked how the scarring happened. She said that a few years ago she fell over a power point that was on the floor in her office. The Employer had moved the furniture around and the power point that was on the floor under a desk was now in the middle of the floor. Whilst it had been brought to her attention by her employer, it wasn’t covered up.
Later in the day she was racing across the office and forgot about the power point and fell over it. She hit her face on the other desk in the room. After many surgeries and plastic surgery, she was left with a terrible scar. She was able to make a claim against the business. She felt guilty about this, but in the end the cost of the surgery and the time she had to take out of the office was too great, and she had to make a claim against her boss. He was very sorry about the situation and obviously didn’t foresee the results of simply moving the office around. This was simply a situation where the employer didn’t foresee the danger and now she would have to spend the rest of her life paying the price for this.
Accidents happen, we all accept that. That is a fact of life. But he should have done something with the power point to make it more noticeable, especially considering it was on the floor. An employer has a duty of care to their staff. They need to ensure that their wellbeing is the forefront of their mind. This situation was a terrible accident, but perhaps could have been avoided with a couple of simple solutions.
Now let me tell you about a duty of care that still makes me angry. A young girl working in an office went to her supervisor’s house after work for a few drinks. Later in the evening, after quite a few drinks, the boss sent the girl home via the golf course that backed onto his property. Her apartment was the other side of this golf course. Walking home she fell into a cement drain, opened up her face and both of her legs. She has about 10 stitches in her face and both her legs took some time to heal. She will require plastic surgery to fix her eye, at some stage in the future, when it has healed. She took a few days off work to have the injuries attended to and her employer dismissed her. They indicated that she was inside her probation and she “wasn’t working out”. She asked about a Workers Compensation Claim to which the employer responded that this was “journey claim” – i.e. she was travelling home from work, if she had a claim at all. With the new laws around journey claims, they doubted that she would have a claim at all.
This was not a journey claim – this is a “duty of care claim”. The supervisor had a duty of care to ensure that she got home safely. He did not do this; in fact he sent her home via a path that was extremely dangerous. Also, she has a claim against her employer for Unfair Dismissal. The employer should have filed an Incident Report with Workers Compensation and she should have been under a Workers Compensation Claim. Whilst someone is under a Workers Compensation Claim they cannot be dismissed.
This situation should not have happened. The supervisor should have ensured she got home safely, first of all. Then he should have filed an Incident Report and assisted with the Workers Compensation Claim and lastly they should not have dismissed her. This is what we would call a “slam dunk” in the legal world. We are still in the middle of the Workers Compensation and the Unfair Dismissal claims, so I can’t tell you the outcome at the moment, but I can assure you. The employer is definitely going to regret not taking a little bit more care of their employee.
If you have staff you need to ensure you complete a Workplace Health & Safety checklist. These can be sourced from our website – free of charge