Man awarded $155,069 for injuries sustained at abattoir

A GRAFTON grandfather injured on the job at the local abattoir following a clash with an out-of-control cow, has successfully sued a food-processing giant for damages.

Grant Tomlinson was awarded more than $150,000 this week after the Sydney Supreme Court found Ramsey Food Processing breached its duty of care.

The court heard Mr Tomlinson, 53, had worked as a manual labourer for most of his life and, following a back injury at the South Grafton Abattoirs in 1995, was restricted to light duties until the site closed in 2000.

Five years later, Ramsey Food Processing re-opened the abattoirs and Mr Tomlinson started work in the "plugging room".

In July 2005 he was engaged in a gory process described as "stimulating a dead cow" - placing an electric metal probe in the animal's mouth and pulsing electricity into the carcass to stimulate blood flow - when the "beast whipped its body whilst the plaintiff still had hold of the probe...and it wrenched his shoulder".

After undergoing physiotherapy at Grafton Hospital, his duties were modified and he was tasked with hosing out the cattle yards.

When he received a transfer to the "offal room" Mr Tomlinson initially refused as "he knew that most of the boxes of meat in the offal room were over his weight restriction limit and there were repetitive duties which involved him reaching above his shoulder".

He later returned to work in the room "because he wanted to keep the job...and had no other employment opportunities available in South Grafton".

A long-serving offal room worker described the working conditions in court as "wet, hot and slippery".

In mid 2008, Mr Tomlinson was attempting to place a steel bar through a 15kg roll of plastic with his left arm when he "lost control of it" and fell forward.

From that point on, Mr Tomlinson claims he has always had trouble "lifting his shoulder" and using his left arm.

During cross-examination, RFP's legal team tendered a series of secret videos in an attempt to prove Mr Tomlinson was exaggerating.

One showed him on his surfboard and swimming and lifting his grandchildren at Minnie Waters beach earlier this year.

He was seen lifting his surfboard with both hands, "above shoulder height" onto the back of his car.

In the same week he was filmed lifting groceries from a trolley, including an 8kg bag of dog food, into his boot.

But Justice Mahoney found the "inconsistencies" were not fatal to Mr Tomlinson's case.

He said the company "owed a duty of care to the plaintiff to have in place and maintain a safe system of work and supervision and to organise its work activities reasonably so as to avoid foreseeable risk of injury.

He also found that as Mr Tomlinson was "medically certified to work on modified duties which involved not lifting more than 10kgs of weight and not working with his left shoulder above shoulder height", requiring him to change the plastic bags above head height "gave rise to a risk of harm...or further aggravate injuries he had previously suffered".

He accepted Mr Tomlinson would continue to be "disadvantaged in the labour market" and ordered the company pay-out a total of $155,069.00.

Topics:  sydney supreme court

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