Distribution Centre Employee Receives Compensation for Workplace Injury

A former distribution centre employee has received a settlement of compensation from his former employers for a back injury he sustained at his place of work.

Salmovir Spes (47), was working at the Windcanton distribution centre in Blanchardstown, Dublin. Salmovir´s job at site was to manually lift or “pick” goods from pallets and load the goods onto trolleys for transportation to twenty-four Supervalu supermarkets in the area. In October 2011, as the Slovakian national was lifting trays of yoghurts from a pallet, he turned to place the yoghurts onto a trolley, Salmovir felt a sharp, intense pain in his back. He requested to go home immediately to rest his back, and then sought prompt medical attention.

Salmovir was unable to return to work at the distribution centre. He remained on sick leave until 2014 when he was made redundant. Salmovir sought legal counsel, and claimed compensation for a workplace manual lifting injury. Windcanton withheld their consent for the Injuries Board to conduct an assessment. Salmovir was subsequently issued with an authorisation to pursue compensation for a workplace manual lifting injury through the courts.

The case was heard at the High Court by Mr Justice Anthony Barr. At the hearing, Judge Barr heard that Salmovir was set a “pick rate” of 1,200 picks per seven-and-a-half hour shift. It was alleged by Salmovir that he had not received any training in the correct way of manually lifting goods in a safe way to meet his target. He further claimed that he was especially selected for heavy manual lifting because of his nationality.

The defence argued that Salmovir had not been treated differently than any other employee because of his nationality, that adequate training was provided and that workers were given refresher courses at regular intervals. They suggested that Salmovir´s injury had been caused by his own negligence due to taking a short cut in the correct procedures.

Judge Barr found in Salmovir´s favour–commenting he was satisfied that Salmovir´s back injury was attributable to a lack of adequate training, unreasonably high pick rates and being forced to take short cuts to meet his target. The judge said there was no evidence to support Salmovir´s allegations of discrimination due to his nationality or the defence´s argument that Salmovir had contributed to his injury through his own negligence.

The judge awarded Salmovir €153,150 compensation for a workplace manual lifting injury, saying he was satisfied that the plaintiff had suffered a significant injury to his lower back due to his employer´s negligence that not only rendered him “permanently disabled in the work aspects of his life”, but also persisted to cause him discomfort in his day-to-day domestic activities.