Worker injured in 10m fall awarded $1.2m

A Dalby refinery worker who was significantly injured when he fell 10 metres from a ladder on to a concrete slab has been awarded $1.2m in damages.

Rigger Steven Speziali was repairing a 14.5-metre silo in June 2017 when he lost his footing and fell, tumbling over guard rails before landing on concrete. He suffered a “48 per cent loss of whole person function” and now needs help with domestic tasks.

Mr Speziali sued employer Nortask and site owner Dalby Bio-refinery Limited (DBRL) for damages, and was successful in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on 1 August.

The court was told Mr Speziali was working on the top platform of a structure made up of three platforms connected by ladders. He wore a safety harness while on the platform, as required, but not while using the ladders, as it was not required.

The court was told the ladders were made of galvanised steel, which was smooth and had no slip-resistance coating, making the ladders “extremely slippery” in the wet conditions.

However, Justice Hindman said there was no cogent evidence that use of the ladders in wet conditions should have been prohibited.


“It may have been sensible to have a sign at ground level warning that the ladders would be slippery when wet, but that here is unlikely to have made any difference. Mr Speziali was aware that the rungs of the ladders were wet and he was taking extra care accordingly. Thus to my mind, it does not matter in this case if the ladders were wet,” she said.

The accident occurred as Mr Speziali was descending the top ladder between the top platform and mid platform.

“As Mr Speziali was approximately a third of the way down the top ladder, he placed a foot on a rung (he was unable to recall which foot), suddenly his foot slipped, causing him to lose balance and tumble downward, hitting various parts of the ladder and tower before eventually landing on the concrete below,”  Justice Hindman said.

“Mr Speziali recalled flashes of hitting the inside of the top ladder cage, his back hitting the mid platform guard rail, his legs then hitting the conveyor tower, before landing on the concrete. The next thing he recalled was waking up winded with people around him.”

Justice Hindman stated the structure’s access system did not comply with Australian safety standards. She stated the risk of injury was not insignificant, with a significant fall distance and the ground surface being concrete.

“Identification and rectification of the non-compliant gap between the top ladder steel cage and the mid platform guardrails were the responsibility of DBRL as occupier of the premises,” she said.


“It should not have permitted use of the top ladder (without a fall arrest system) whilst that non-compliance existed. The risks of serious injury associated with that non-compliance was readily foreseeable. The rectification works required to rectify the non-compliance were not onerous.

“Compliance with the relevant AS (Australian Standards) would not have permitted Mr Speziali to fall to the ground. The non-compliance might be considered small, but it was critical and not merely trivial. It was sufficient to constitute a lack of reasonable care by DBRL.”

Justice Hindman found no contributory negligence on the part of Mr Speziali.

She ordered judgment against Nortask in the sum of $899,254 (inclusive of WorkCover refund of $355,177.33 and common law rehabilitation fund of $15,934.55), and judgment against DBRL in the sum of $1,203,193, comprising $899,254 (inclusive of WorkCover refund of $355,177.33 and common law rehabilitation fund of $15,934.550) plus $303,909 on account of past and future care.

She ordered the damages of $899,254 be apportioned between the two parties as 25 per cent to Nortask, and 75 per cent to DBRL.

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