Acir v Frosster Pty Ltd
"I derive some assistance in reaching this conclusion from the opinion of Mr Dohrmann, the ergonomist, who identified the following steps as being relevant to the prevention of reduction of manual handling injuries"
Case: Acir v Frosster Pty Ltd
Date of Judgement: October 7 2009
Court (Location): Supreme Court of Victoria
Expert (for the Plaintiff): Mr Mark Dohrmann, engineer and ergonomist, Dohrmann Consulting
Solicitors: Zaparas Lawyers Pty Ltd (Plaintiff); Thomson Playford Cutlers (Defendant)
Legal Matter: Plaintiff suffered back and shoulder injury due to repetitive lifting of heavy milk crates.
Court Decision: Plaintiff awarded sum of $376,200, being $126,000 for pain and suffering damages and $250,200 for pecuniary loss damages.
Extracts from Judge Forrest J's comments in relation to evidence provided by expert witness engineer and ergonomist Mr Mark Dohrmann.
Paragraph 210: Proper training would have ensured that he was instructed in the principles of safe manual handling, which include ensuring that the lift was carried out as close to the body as practicable. I derive some assistance in reaching this conclusion from the opinion of Mr Dohrmann, the ergonomist, who identified the following steps as being relevant to the prevention of reduction of manual handling injuries:
(a) designing the task;
(b) proper allocation of tasks; and
(c) instruction and training in safe working procedures.
Paragraph 211: Mr Dohrmann also made a series of calculation, based upon a method called NIOSH. Using these calculations, he arrived at a conclusion that I think could have been arrived at by the application of commonsense, namely, that the performance of the task by Mr Acir involved “his exposure to a risk of injury”, that being the lifting and manoeuvring in a stretched position of a moderately heavy object.
Paragraph 212: The measures proposed by Mr Dohrmann as being sensible in the light of the risk posed to Mr Acir were as follows:
• Conducting a review or audit of manual handling work which would have identified the task as comprising a risk of strain injury with the prospect of earlier intervention.
• Training Mr Acir not so much in lifting techniques but in equipping Mr Acir to understand the risks of carrying out the type of lift which he carried out.
• Giving instructions that crates were not to be lifted one handed or across the crossbar.
Paragraph 214: I conclude that there was a foreseeable risk of injury and that a proper response by Frosster involved training and instruction on how to handle and remove the crates. It failed to do so. I am also satisfied, on the evidence of Mr Haw and, to some extent, Mr Dohrmann, in the event that such training and instruction had been given, the risk of injury would have been significantly reduced, if not eliminated.
Full court report can be accessed via the Australasian Legal Institute - Acir v Frosster Pty Ltd  VSC 454 (7 October 2009).