A chef of Highfields Tavern is suing Australian Leisure & Hospitality for compensation over a claim he slipped on ice in the freezer and seriously injured his shoulder.

Larry Owen McPaul alleges the pub’s owner, ALH Group, failed in its duty to maintain a safe work environment, and to take reasonable steps to avoid exposing staff to what amounted to a foreseeable risk of injury.

According to the claim, on 25 January 2021, McPaul went into the walk-in freezer to fetch something. He was forced to lean over boxes on the floor, and slipped on ice on the floor. In attempting to stop from falling he grabbed at some shelving, but his fingers became entangled and his left shoulder was wrenched as he fell.

McPaul felt immediate pain, and was unable to work. He required surgery to his rotator cuff and bicep, which was performed in April of that year.

It is stated that more than three months earlier McPaul had informed the head chef of the leak from a compressor pipe, causing water to pool and freeze on the floor.

Murphy Schmidt Solicitors have filed documents with Toowoomba District Court seeking $326k, calculated as including (roughly) $176k being for permanent impairment, $60k for economic loss being off work, and $29k relating to medical and travel expenses.

The claim does not seek recompense for ‘pain and suffering’, being recognition of the “harmful impact the injury has had … physically and mentally”. Compensation lawyers LawPartners explain that this kind of compensation, while commonly applied to motor vehicle accidents, public injuries and medical negligence, isn’t generally available for workplace injuries.

In the argument, McPaul’s solicitors suggest his employer should have taken steps to repair the leaking pipe within a week of the fault being identified, and that allowing boxes to be stored on the floor posed a safety risk.

It is also suggested that ALH failed to conduct safety audits of facilities, notably the freezer, or take steps to eliminate the hazard, in this case water freezing on the floor.

A date is yet to be set for the hearing, and ALH will need to file a defence.

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