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2015-03-18

Supreme Court of NSW

Post owed duty of care to sub-contractor to ensure safe work conditions

In the following case the court found that Post breached its duty of care by failing to take adequate precautions against the risk of lifting parcels.

Expert evidence on behalf of Ms Wooby (the Plaintiff) identified a number of alternatives for a safe system of work including:

  • The use of trolleys with height adjustable load platforms.
  • Mechanical lifting devices.
  • Ensuring that no workers (either employees or contractors) were permitted or required to manually lift any package that had been identified as too heavy to be safely lifted by an individual. 

Despite this decision in 2013, Post has still not provided height adjustable trolleys to minimise the risk of lifting (with the exception of MPF & SPF where they have been ordered following demands by the CWU national office for height adjustable trolleys or vacuum lifters). Members report that Post contractors regularly lift parcels out of ULDs off the floor (with no mechanical lifting device) and are lifting parcels unassisted.

The court said the parcels were weighed thus, Post knew the risk, namely that a contractor could suffer an injury through lifting a parcel unassisted. This is the same risk that workers in mail centres and post offices are exposed to everyday? Your national union believes that a formal risk analysis of the various manual handling tasks that employees and contractors could be expected to undertake and steps of the kind proposed above should be taken to minimise the risks.

Facts

The facts of this case were that Jacqueline Wooby a subcontractor, who performed a mail delivery run suffered an injury to her back whilst lifting a parcel on Post premises in order to place it in her van. Ms

Wooby did not work for Post rather Post had a contract with V&E Transport Pty Limited for parcel delivery from its Kingsgrove delivery centre and Ms Wooby had oral sub-contract with V&E Transport.

Ms Wooby sued Post in negligence for failing to provide a safe system. She contended that Post owed her a duty of care.

The matter was initially heard at the District Court at Sydney with the finding that Post did not owe a duty of care to her. Ms Wooby appealed. The court found that Post owed a duty of care and had breached its duty of care by failing to take steps to minimise the risk of the activity. Post sought special leave to appeal to the High Court. This was refused.

The matter was remitted to the District Court for the assessment of damages to be paid to Ms Wooby and Post to pay costs of the trial and appeals.

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