Every year in Australia, thousands of people are hurt in factory and warehouse accidents. Unfortunately, there is still the occasional fatality, though these are reducing due to health and safety legislation.
These industrial accidents are often due to negligence or carelessness by the business – whether through lack of staff training, adherence to safety procedures, or supervision.
If you have been injured in a warehouse or factory accident where you work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. If you were injured as a visitor to the business, you also have avenues to claim compensation.
Read this article for more information about the claims process and how an industrial accident lawyer can help you get the support you need to recover and get your life back on track.
Types of warehouse accidents
If you work in a warehouse or factory, your employer is required to do risk management and put a health and safety plan in place to protect you. There are also strict laws and standards that must be maintained in a dangerous work environment.
If these laws and guidelines are ignored by staff or your employer fails in their duty of care, you are at risk every time you go to work. This could lead to a wide range of accidents occurring:
Slips and falls
This often occurs due to spilled liquid on the ground or items being left in the way. You could also fall from a ladder or truck.
Falling objects or shelving
Even small items can be dangerous if they fall from a great height. In a warehouse or factory, pallets and boxes must be stacked correctly to protect employees. Shelving itself can collapse if it is overloaded or not assembled correctly.
Strains and sprains
There is a lot of physical work involved in a warehouse, such as moving boxes and maneuvering heavy items. You can easily damage your back, shoulders, and knees by constantly or incorrectly lifting heavy objects.
It is unfortunately common for a pedestrian in a warehouse to be crushed between two objects, such as a truck and a wall. This can cause head and chest injuries, or even spinal or organ damage.
A lot of warehouses and factories house toxic substances, and there are strict guidelines for their use and storage. If this is done incorrectly, the exposure to fumes and liquids can cause severe burns, blindness, poisoning, lung damage, and more.
These are very common types of accidents in warehouses. Used incorrectly, forklifts can injure pedestrians or even topple over and hurt the driver. It’s so common that we have a written an entire article about forklift accidents.
The conditions in a warehouse or factory may be highly stressful or impactful enough to bring on a heart attack or mental health issues or make an existing condition worse.
Compensation for warehouse accidents
Any of the accidents described above can put you out of work for some time while you recover. More severe injuries or illness might leave you unable to do your job at all.
If this happens to you, you may be able to make a worker’s compensation (i.e. WorkCover) claim to help you cover lost income, medical expenses, and other necessary items while you recover.
By law, every business owner is required to have workers’ compensation insurance (unless they are self-insured – see below). So the insurer would pay you, not the individual employer.
WorkCover Queensland may provide compensation for:
- lost wages (weekly payments)
- medical and rehabilitation costs
- travel related to your treatment or claim
- permanent injury or delayed (latent onset) injuries
- funeral costs (in the case where the worker has died).
Who is covered
You are automatically covered by WorkCover if you are a full-time, part-time, casual, or contracted worker. There are exceptions – such as external contractors – but generally, you are a worker if there is an employer-employee relationship.
You can use the ATO’s tool to work out whether you are an employee or contractor if you’re unsure.
As well as being covered while you are at work doing your job, you are also covered when you’re:
- working from home
- on a scheduled break
- travelling to and from work
- travelling for work, such as for an interstate conference.
Worker’s compensation covers only you – the person who was injured or became ill at work as a result of employer negligence or carelessness.
It doesn’t cover any associated damage to your car, property, or medical expenses that aren’t related to your claim. It also doesn’t cover any non-worker who was with you. They would need to make their own personal injury claim.
While WorkCover Queensland covers most employers in this state, some employers are self-insured. This means they have taken on the risk and responsibility for WorkCover.
If your employer is self-insured, you may need to make a claim with them directly. We advise, in this case, that you get professional advice on how to proceed.
When someone dies at work
You may be able to make a claim if you are the dependent of a person who has died as a result of a warehouse or factory accident – such as a husband, wife, de-facto spouse, or child.
If you’re not related but were dependent on the person who died, you may also be able to claim.
Such compensation might include a lump sum, regular payments, or funeral expenses.
There are conditions, so your claim may not be straightforward. That’s why we always advise getting professional advice before you start the process.
If you’re claiming due to the work death of a loved one, you may not feel up to providing specifics about how they died and how you were dependent on them. We can help you sensitively through this terrible time to ensure you get the full amount you’re entitled to and be able to support yourself.
Visitors to warehouses and factories
If you have been injured while visiting a warehouse or factory, but you are not an employee of that business, you can’t claim workers compensation. However, you may be able to make a personal injury claim through the business’s public liability insurance.
Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be eligible for compensation for lost income and medical expenses.
Speak to one of our personal injury lawyers at Main Lawyers to see if you have a case for compensation.
What is considered
When you make a claim, the insurer will look at several factors when deciding whether to approve it, including:
- whether you are a ‘worker’ by law and you work for that employer
- whether the injury or illness was definitely work-related
- to what extent (if any) that you contributed to the injury or illness
- whether you have made the claim within the required time frame
- the extent of your injuries or illness and how they will affect your ability to do your job going forward.
Even if you partly contributed to the warehouse accident, you may still have a reduced claim if the employer’s negligence was a major factor.
Mental trauma is also a consideration, as well as physical injury. Additionally, if there are likely to be longer-term impacts, your compensation is likely to be higher.
You will need to be able to prove your claim that your employer was partly or totally responsible for the accident occurring, so keep copies of all paperwork.
Common law claims
The worker’s compensation scheme allows people to sue their employer if they believe the employer’s negligence led to the accident. If you can prove that they breached their duty of care, you may be able to claim damages.
This is different from a worker’s compensation claim, which works under a ‘no fault’ system. Your ‘no fault’ statutory claim for workers’ compensation will end if you decide to make a common law claim.
There is a different process and a lawyer will usually submit the paperwork in this case. At Main Lawyers, we can give you advice about this option and work with you through the common law claim process.
The process for claiming
If you have been injured in an accident in a warehouse or factory, and you believe the fault lies with the business, you should start the process as quickly as possible. The sooner you can claim, the sooner you can get the support you need to cover bills and treatment.
No matter your situation, you should firstly:
- report the incident to your employer
- complete a WorkCover form
- get a WorkCover medical certificate.
Also, consider getting professional guidance from a warehouse accident lawyer.
At Main Lawyers, we specialise in work injury assessments and our team includes expert WorkCover lawyers. We have dealt with a wide range of cases and can make sure you include everything that will be relevant to your claim.
We have a strong track record of success and will work hard to get your case resolved as soon as possible. And if you can’t come to our office, we are happy to come to you in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, or Northern New South Wales. Contact us for a free, no-obligation discussion.