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$600,000 damages for a bad coffee making setup

By johnboy - 21 December 2013 18

Safety Culture has an interesting story of a charity coffee maker getting quite badly injured by years of working with a machine not set up well for her.

A $600,000 payout should get everyone thinking about the conditions their workers are in.

What’s Your opinion?


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18 Responses to
$600,000 damages for a bad coffee making setup
Masquara 3:41 pm 22 Dec 13

Postalgeek said :

This sounds like it could’ve been an ergonomic nightmare, depending on the physics and heights involved. Try holding a two-litre bottle of milk with your arm extended at shoulder height or above and sustain it for a minute. Then repeat. Again. And again. And again.

Totally agree, and I am glad she was compensated. I worked doing a repetitive task with fairly similar mechanics (but not barista work) in the museums sector years ago and just reading about what she had to do over years made me wince. I only sustained temporary damage in my job – fortunately the ergonomics issue was spotted and dealt with within six months – and god was it awkward and painful. There is no question that had I had to continue doing what I was doing for years I would have had a similarly bad result. Add to that, that the plaintiff is short-statured – if I picture having to add an upward angle to my sideways reach at the time: ouch.

IrishPete 12:12 pm 22 Dec 13

Loving all the comments from the medical professionals on here. If the court accepted the claim, then you can be pretty sure it was valid.

And no doubt the insurer will have spied on her for a few years to try to prove she was claiming fraudulently (see http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-19/insurance-company-spying-on-stressed-cops/5168270).

A 4-day hospital admission for a suspected blood clot is a fairly near-death experience. This was not a trivial injury, just like any other repetitive strain injury is not trivial to the sufferer even if it is only caused by moving a mouse around on a desk.

This was also reported in the Canberra Times http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/600000-damages-for-barista-injured-by-years-of-steaming-milk-20131219-2zobf.html and in detail on the Supreme Court website http://courts.act.gov.au/supreme/judgment/view/7829/title/damico-v-calvary-hospital-auxiliary http://courts.act.gov.au/supreme/judgment/view/7829/title/damico-v-calvary-hospital-auxiliary.

It’s unclear when she finally ceased working, probably 2009, so the injustice here may be that it has taken over 4 years for her to be compensated.

IP

Antagonist 11:35 am 22 Dec 13

“The job meant she filled a stainless steel jug with milk that she would then hold under a steam nozzle for about a minute at a time without being able to rest the jug, that weighed 2 kilos, on anything.”

2 kilos? Lets assume the stainless steel jug weighed 500 grams – it will, in reality, weigh less than this. This means she was filling the jug to at least 1.5 litres every time she made coffee. I call BS. It sounds to me like she was habitually overfilling the jug, which means she was spending more time than is necessary trying to heat/froth said milk. It sounds to me like she also contributed to her own injury because she could not use a common sense approach to her own workplace practices. I also call BS on being able to heat 1.5 litres of milk using a steam nozzle, within 1 minute, to an acceptably warm and frothy consistency. Too many exaggerations of ‘the facts’ for my liking.

Ben_Dover 10:48 am 22 Dec 13

I’d love a job lifting big jugs all day.

Mr Evil 10:22 am 22 Dec 13

I got a papercut at work two weeks ago, because no one has trained me in how to load the photocopier safely – can I geta payout too?

Postalgeek 10:04 am 22 Dec 13

Tim33 said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

MrPC – Employers do not have to worry about this, as worker’s compensation insurance pays out these figures.
screaming banshee – It isn’t like concreters ask for smaller bags of cement or carpenters ask for smaller sheets of Gyprock. You work while you have it, as hard as you can, knowing that complaining will only get you fired.
Holding 2L of milk on a regular basis doesn’t even compare with 20kg of cement, sheets of ceiling material or ladders that weigh between 10 and 20 kg [because of the laws relating to the safe use of ladders, they used to be half that weight].
I find this case to be a little extreme, considering any person working in retail would have to lift at least 2kg several times an hour. If this were normal, I’m sure we would have heard about it happening before 2004.

1 to this

Being a Sparky I have watched other trades like Chippies and Concreters lift heavy things like above mentioned bags of cement and awkward Gyprock sheets. They do it all day and don’t stuff around without such as a whinge. As a Sparky I lift ladders under my arm all day, my tool bag is about 10kgs and is slung over my shoulder when moving location frequently, I use heavy tools like 5kg hammer drills above my head and I have farmers carried 90kg submain cable drums alone and just got on with it. Sometimes there is lifting all day, you just keep your back straight and lift properly – get the job done. I have never even had such as a twinge in my back my entire career due to correct posture doing all this manual labor. It pisses me off that people like this can scam 600k in a coffee making job – what a scammer and a bloody sook.

Comparing apples to oranges. Lots of ways of lifting involving different ergonomics and physics. Lifting heavy weight occasionally involving multiple large muscle groups. And not sustained. And weight close to centre.

This sounds like it could’ve been an ergonomic nightmare, depending on the physics and heights involved. Try holding a two-litre bottle of milk with your arm extended at shoulder height or above and sustain it for a minute. Then repeat. Again. And again. And again.

maxblues 9:45 am 22 Dec 13

I hate bad coffee but I do like big jugs (of beer?).

ScienceRules 9:01 am 22 Dec 13

Tim33 said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

MrPC – Employers do not have to worry about this, as worker’s compensation insurance pays out these figures.
screaming banshee – It isn’t like concreters ask for smaller bags of cement or carpenters ask for smaller sheets of Gyprock. You work while you have it, as hard as you can, knowing that complaining will only get you fired.
Holding 2L of milk on a regular basis doesn’t even compare with 20kg of cement, sheets of ceiling material or ladders that weigh between 10 and 20 kg [because of the laws relating to the safe use of ladders, they used to be half that weight].
I find this case to be a little extreme, considering any person working in retail would have to lift at least 2kg several times an hour. If this were normal, I’m sure we would have heard about it happening before 2004.

+1 to this

Being a Sparky I have watched other trades like Chippies and Concreters lift heavy things like above mentioned bags of cement and awkward Gyprock sheets. They do it all day and don’t stuff around without such as a whinge. As a Sparky I lift ladders under my arm all day, my tool bag is about 10kgs and is slung over my shoulder when moving location frequently, I use heavy tools like 5kg hammer drills above my head and I have farmers carried 90kg submain cable drums alone and just got on with it. Sometimes there is lifting all day, you just keep your back straight and lift properly – get the job done. I have never even had such as a twinge in my back my entire career due to correct posture doing all this manual labor. It pisses me off that people like this can scam 600k in a coffee making job – what a scammer and a bloody sook.

Firstly, tradies are huge worker’s compensation claimants for just this type of injury. It happens all the time, your anecdotes notwithstanding.

Second, despite your Mighty Man Uber Lifting abilities, that isn’t what this story is about. Try holding your ladder (not a euphamism) at 35 degrees from your body for most of your working day, every day and see how that feels.

What pisses ME off is wankers who think that if they havn’t suffered from something, then no one else can or should.

Pork Hunt 8:33 am 22 Dec 13

wildturkeycanoe said :

MrPC – Employers do not have to worry about this, as worker’s compensation insurance pays out these figures.
screaming banshee – It isn’t like concreters ask for smaller bags of cement or carpenters ask for smaller sheets of Gyprock. You work while you have it, as hard as you can, knowing that complaining will only get you fired.
Holding 2L of milk on a regular basis doesn’t even compare with 20kg of cement, sheets of ceiling material or ladders that weigh between 10 and 20 kg [because of the laws relating to the safe use of ladders, they used to be half that weight].
I find this case to be a little extreme, considering any person working in retail would have to lift at least 2kg several times an hour. If this were normal, I’m sure we would have heard about it happening before 2004.

I think you will find that cement bags are now in fact 20 kg (down from 40kg) for OH&S reasons.

wildturkeycanoe 7:11 am 22 Dec 13

Tim33 said :

wildturkeycanoe said :

MrPC – Employers do not have to worry about this, as worker’s compensation insurance pays out these figures.
screaming banshee – It isn’t like concreters ask for smaller bags of cement or carpenters ask for smaller sheets of Gyprock. You work while you have it, as hard as you can, knowing that complaining will only get you fired.
Holding 2L of milk on a regular basis doesn’t even compare with 20kg of cement, sheets of ceiling material or ladders that weigh between 10 and 20 kg [because of the laws relating to the safe use of ladders, they used to be half that weight].
I find this case to be a little extreme, considering any person working in retail would have to lift at least 2kg several times an hour. If this were normal, I’m sure we would have heard about it happening before 2004.

+1 to this

Being a Sparky I have watched other trades like Chippies and Concreters lift heavy things like above mentioned bags of cement and awkward Gyprock sheets. They do it all day and don’t stuff around without such as a whinge. As a Sparky I lift ladders under my arm all day, my tool bag is about 10kgs and is slung over my shoulder when moving location frequently, I use heavy tools like 5kg hammer drills above my head and I have farmers carried 90kg submain cable drums alone and just got on with it. Sometimes there is lifting all day, you just keep your back straight and lift properly – get the job done. I have never even had such as a twinge in my back my entire career due to correct posture doing all this manual labor. It pisses me off that people like this can scam 600k in a coffee making job – what a scammer and a bloody sook.

I’ve seen a few chippies ruin their shoulders, backs and knees after decades of doing it. My sparky career came to an end a week ago after 23 years on the tools. My elbow went under the knife and 6 months post op the doc wrote me off, never to go back to the trade. I can barely pick up a 2 litre bottle of milk or turn sausages on a bbq. Instead of being awarded $600k I’m left wondering when my next 65% of average pre-injury earnings cheque will arrive and what kind of job suits someone who isn’t allowed repetitive use of their dominant hand. I guess you need a good lawyer to get the big bucks.

Tim33 1:33 am 22 Dec 13

wildturkeycanoe said :

MrPC – Employers do not have to worry about this, as worker’s compensation insurance pays out these figures.
screaming banshee – It isn’t like concreters ask for smaller bags of cement or carpenters ask for smaller sheets of Gyprock. You work while you have it, as hard as you can, knowing that complaining will only get you fired.
Holding 2L of milk on a regular basis doesn’t even compare with 20kg of cement, sheets of ceiling material or ladders that weigh between 10 and 20 kg [because of the laws relating to the safe use of ladders, they used to be half that weight].
I find this case to be a little extreme, considering any person working in retail would have to lift at least 2kg several times an hour. If this were normal, I’m sure we would have heard about it happening before 2004.

+1 to this

Being a Sparky I have watched other trades like Chippies and Concreters lift heavy things like above mentioned bags of cement and awkward Gyprock sheets. They do it all day and don’t stuff around without such as a whinge. As a Sparky I lift ladders under my arm all day, my tool bag is about 10kgs and is slung over my shoulder when moving location frequently, I use heavy tools like 5kg hammer drills above my head and I have farmers carried 90kg submain cable drums alone and just got on with it. Sometimes there is lifting all day, you just keep your back straight and lift properly – get the job done. I have never even had such as a twinge in my back my entire career due to correct posture doing all this manual labor. It pisses me off that people like this can scam 600k in a coffee making job – what a scammer and a bloody sook.

BimboGeek 11:40 pm 21 Dec 13

I’ve been there although not that bad. If you have an existing medical problem then steaming the big jugs and standing for 10 hours can send you home limping and clutching your shoulder or arm in agony. It’s not the weight of the jug, it’s the way you have to control its position to the millimetre. The tension never gets released properly and you can get all crampy and crippled.

If you’re healthy a nice hot bath and a good night’s sleep fixes it. If you’ve got some blood circulation issue perhaps it’s not that easy.

The “not set up properly” angle is a bit rubbish though. Coffee machines might be worked on by a dozen employees. Are they supposed to adjust the bench height at each shift change? Or should she bring a stool? Chefs and bartenders might get different aches depending on their height but there’s no such thing as an ergonomic bar, unfortunately. I wish there was!

wildturkeycanoe 10:24 pm 21 Dec 13

MrPC – Employers do not have to worry about this, as worker’s compensation insurance pays out these figures.
screaming banshee – It isn’t like concreters ask for smaller bags of cement or carpenters ask for smaller sheets of Gyprock. You work while you have it, as hard as you can, knowing that complaining will only get you fired.
Holding 2L of milk on a regular basis doesn’t even compare with 20kg of cement, sheets of ceiling material or ladders that weigh between 10 and 20 kg [because of the laws relating to the safe use of ladders, they used to be half that weight].
I find this case to be a little extreme, considering any person working in retail would have to lift at least 2kg several times an hour. If this were normal, I’m sure we would have heard about it happening before 2004.

screaming banshee 7:50 pm 21 Dec 13

This is bs, who keeps working when their arm turns blue. Why use such big jugs, did she ask for smaller jugs and was denied?

There was another one in the last couple of days where a workshop manager busted his back lifting a machine into a van….there were ramps and a forklift available but because there wasn’t a 100 page document which basically says don’t be a dickhead the company (for which he was workshop MANAGER!) is copping a 1.4 million bill

MrPC 7:34 pm 21 Dec 13

It’s more likely to get businesses to learn how to isolate their business finances from their personal finances, so that they can phoenix the company that got sued and go on without ever paying out a cent in compensation.

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