Tradie ‘bear hug’ costs firm $600K

A site supervisor whose workplace prank backfired horribly and caused a shocking injury has also cost the company a hefty sum.
A “playful” supervisor has cost his company a small fortune after workplace “horseplay” landed an employee in hospital with a broken ankle. A 33-year-old construction labourer, Jony Ajia, who was employed through a labour-hire firm, was working at a site under the “control and direction” of TRN Group in Airds in NSW when the incident occurred on April 13, 2016.

After lunch that day, Mr Ajia was returning to work when his supervisor approached him and “playfully put him in ‘sort of’ a ‘bear hug’.” But the pair overbalanced and fell over, with the supervisor falling on the worker’s right leg, causing him “immediate and extreme pain”.

He was driven to Campbelltown Hospital and was told his ankle was broken. He underwent surgery three days later and had to wear a moon boot for three months, and described the injury as “extremely painful”. He eventually returned to work at his labour hire company and performed light duties as he was still in discomfort, before having a second operation on March 11, 2017.

In July, he stopped working as the company no longer had appropriate light duties for him, and in November he underwent a third surgery. The court heard Mr Ajia was still in pain on a “daily basis” as a result of his injury and that he was still unable to play sports he used to enjoy such as soccer or touch football. He is unable to help with many physical household chores and has been left with scars on his ankle he described as “quite gnarly” and being very sensitive to touch.

He said the mishap had taken a “big toll” on him as someone who was previously active and independent, and is now “frustrated” as he can’t go to the gym or do tasks he used to enjoy. Mr Ajia was also disappointed he had to give up work within the construction industry, although he has since found casual work as a security officer conducting alarm monitoring.

The court ruled that the defendant had a duty to maintain discipline at the site to prevent a risk of injury from skylarking. This included providing proper supervision at the site, taking steps to discipline any worker involved in skylarking and to train its employees as to the need to eliminate or minimise the risk created by skylarking.

It also found Mr Ajia did not have the opportunity to ask his supervisor to stop “or that his actions were an active participation in skylarking or horseplay”, and that it was not “reasonable for the plaintiff to have taken steps to prevent the contact before it occurred”.

As a result, it was found that the injured man was entitled to a total of $662,102 in damages, including $118,500 for non-economic loss, $166,182 for past economic loss, $196,163 for future economic loss and lost superannuation and past and present out of pocket expenses.


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