Manual handling training – whether employer took reasonable steps…

compensation law casenotes

…to provide a safe place of work and a safe system of work – whether adequate practical and module manual handling training was conducted

The plaintiff was employed by Aldi Stores and as part of her duties she was required to unload and stack stock from an “ambient pallet”.

On 28 April 2019, the plaintiff sustained an injury to her lower back when she was lifting three cardboard trays containing tinned tomatoes. The combined weight of the three trays was 15 kilograms.

The plaintiff bent from her waist to perform the lift and then turned to the left and carried the boxes with outstretched arms to the shelves. In doing so she felt a ‘twinge’ in her back.

The plaintiff gave evidence that, on the first day or two of her employment, she was given manual handling training that involved watching a video on an iPad. The demonstration on the video was clearly staged and did not resemble the types of lifting the plaintiff was required to perform.

The plaintiff was then required to complete a short quiz of three questions with only two possible multiple-choice answers for each question. Her manager then asked whether she knew how to lift, to which she responded ‘yes’.

The plaintiff submitted that there was no demonstration performed and no requirement for her to demonstrate how she performed a lift. It was also submitted that the plaintiff was never instructed not to lift more than 10 kilograms.


Essentially, it was left up to the individual staff members to determine how much weight they were comfortable lifting at any one time. Further there was pressure on the plaintiff, and all other workers, to work at pace and complete the unloading of a pallet in 19 minutes. Failure to do so resulted in the plaintiff being reprimanded and told that she would need to improve her speed if she were to be considered for a promotion.

The defendant submitted that they implemented manual handling training that included watching the video, doing the quiz, watching a demonstration performed by the manager and then individuals demonstrating how to lift items using the techniques taught.

Following on from the initial training, the defendant submitted that the plaintiff participated in a ‘buddy system’ whereby new staff members could run loads with experienced staff until they were comfortable performing the task themselves.

The defendant pleaded that staff were instructed not to lift more than 10 kilograms and denied that there was pressure put on staff to complete the unloading of pallets in 19 minutes.


In a decision delivered on 22 November 2022, Jarro DCJ delivered judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $157,767.71


Jarro DCJ held that the manual training afforded to the plaintiff was inadequate and not enforced.


His Honour accepted the plaintiff’s evidence in relation to the actual training she received despite the defendant calling a number of witnesses who gave evidence of more fulsome training that they had received. His Honour was critical of the testing of the plaintiff’s understanding and described it as “superficial and inadequate”.

His Honour formed the view that proper manual handling training and enforcement of safe procedures would have either prevented or significantly minimised the risk of injury to the plaintiff. There was no discount for contributory negligence as his Honour was not satisfied that the plaintiff disobeyed any instruction given to her or that she knew she was taking a risk for her own safety.

In relation to quantum, the plaintiff was 33 years of age at the time of the incident and 37 at the time of trial. His Honour noted that the plaintiff had a poor work history prior to having her children and that her role at Aldi was the first paid employment she had had for a couple of years.

She had not returned to commercial employment at the time of trial. His Honour concluded that her loss of earnings was not entirely due to the injury but also due to her lack of reasonable efforts to apply for work. Accordingly, much of her past economic loss was reduced by 30%. A global sum of $60,000 was awarded for future economic loss.

This compensation law casenote appears courtesy of Travis Schultz & Partners (TSP), where the author, Beth Rolton, is a Partner and Cairns Office Leader. As part of the firm’s commitment to providing ongoing legal education, TSP practitioners review relevant judgments and prepare case summaries for the legal profession. A free searchable catalogue of compensation law casenotes is available at (registration required). The full version of the judgments can be found at

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