Tuesday 28 March 2017

Worker awarded €153,000 after he injured his back picking up trays of yogurt

Tim Healy

A WORKER at a distribution centre for a supermarket chain has been awarded €153,000 by the High Court after he injured his back picking up trays of yogurt.

Salmovir Spes (47), a Slovakian who came here to live and work in 2005, sued Windcanton Ireland, Northwest Business Park, Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Mr Spes was a "picker" at the centre which supplied 24 Superquinn, now Supervalu, supermarkets around the country.

His job involved lifting goods destined for the different stores from pallets and placing them on trolleys known as combi cages for onward transport.

On October 29, 2012, he was lifting five trays of yogurt from a pallet to a cage and had squatted down on his hunkers.  He pulled the trays towards him and lifted them but as he turned to put them into the cage, which was about a meter away, he experienced a sharp pain in his back and had to go home early.

He claimed the injury was caused due to his employer's failure to adequately train him in the correct technique when twisting or turning while carrying a heavy load.

He also claimed an unreasonably high "pick rate" of 1,200 picks per seven-and-a-half hour shift was imposed on him.

He also alleged he was required to carry out an unreasonable amount of heavy lifting.

The claims were denied.

Windcanton said he received training in safe handling when he joined the company and also underwent refresher courses.

It denied there was an unreasonably high pick rate required or that he was treated unfairly in any way in relation to heavy lifting duties.

It also alleged there was contributory negligence.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr was satisfied Mr Spes' injury arose due to a combination of lack of adequate training, an excessive pick rate and that workers were forced to take shortcuts when lifting in order to achieve their targets.

He did not accept it had been established that he was singled out for more heavy duties or that there was any discrimination or unfair treatment against him as compared to other workers.

He declined to make any finding of contributory negligence.

Mr Spes was out sick from the company due to his injury until he was made redundant in 2014.

Taking all of the medical evidence into account,  the judge was satisfied he suffered a significant injury to his lower back which has rendered him "permanently disabled in the work aspects of his life."

He also accepted he continued to have back pain on a frequent basis.

He was entitled to judgment against the defendant for €153,150.

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