ON THIS DAY in 1986, the High Court of Australia delivered Bankstown Foundry Pty Ltd v Braistina  HCA 20; (1986) 160 CLR 301 (13 May 1986).
“Negligence – Master and servant – Duty of care – Safe system of work – Employer’s duty to provide – Scope of duty – Contributory negligence.”
Braistina was a metal trades worker employed by Bankstown Foundry. As part of his duties he drilled holes in cast iron pipes weighing about 60 pounds. He was required to lift about 40 pipes an hour from a pallet onto a drilling machine and then onto another pallet after the drilling.
On a particular shift, Braistina injured his neck after drilling about 115 pipes over a three hour period. Medical evidence showed that the lifting and twisting made the risk of injury foreseeable and not far fetched and fanciful.
A hoist was readily available but not used. The use of the hoist was not impracticable, caused no undue expense or nor any difficulty. Had the hoist been used the risk of injury would have been eliminated.
The court held that in the circumstances, a prudent employer would reasonably require that the hoist be used.
An employer must take reasonable steps to enforce a safe system of work, otherwise they are in breach of their duty of care to the employee and will be found negligent and liable for the injury, loss and damage suffered by the employee.
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