NEARLY 11 years ago a teenager fell more than six metres through scaffolding at an Anna Bay building site on his first day of work.
Last week a NSW District Court judge ordered those responsible to pay him more than $1 million damages after finding four different building companies were negligent and failed to protect the teenager from a foreseeable risk of serious injury or death.
The teenager, 18, was left with serious upper body and facial injuries after falling from the second floor roof of an Anna Bay house on September 18, 2008, only hours after starting work in the construction industry as a labourer.
He fell after stepping onto unsecured timber bridging planks resting between the edge of the house's sloping tile roof and the platform of an adjacent scaffolding tower, while attempting to drop roof tiles to a skip below.
NSW District Court Judge Leonard Levy, SC, accepted the injured man's evidence he had not been warned against using or accessing the timber bridging planks to gain access to the scaffolding deck, and no fence or barrier had been erected. The planked platform seemed a natural access route to do the work, Judge Levy said.
He rejected arguments by QBE Insurance, representing the head contractor, and scaffolding, guttering and roof tile contractors that the teenager contributed to the negligence by failing to exercise reasonable care.
"As an unskilled worker new on the site, he had no knowledge or means of acquiring knowledge of the safety issues posed by reason of the planks being unsecured or tied down," Judge Levy said.
As an unskilled worker new on the site, he had no knowledge or means of acquiring knowledge of the safety issues posed by reason of the planks being unsecured or tied down.NSW District Court Judge Laurence Levy, SC.
A "simple visual inspection" by any of the four contractors, "had they taken the time and made the basic effort to carry out an adequate inspection from the roof level, rather than simply looking up", would have identified the "unsafe position of the bridging planks", the judge said.
The teenager "walked down the pitch of the roof, and then stepped onto an unsecured plank and then into open space".
The teenager required multiple operations over the next decade for injuries that included serious injuries to his right eye area.
"The result of the fractures and the multiple surgeries he has had is that he has a significant right sided facial deformity," Judge Levy said.
One eye issue requires further surgery despite 10 operations so far, and the injured man continues to experience difficulty with spatial and distance judgments that leave him unsafe on uneven ground due to his visual problems.
Judge Levy ordered the four construction contractors to pay the injured man more than $1.076 million, which includes compensation for more than $150,000 he has already had to spend for medical treatment. Judge Levy found his employer was responsible for 10 per cent of the damages order, the builder and fascia and guttering contractor for 25 per cent each and the scaffolder for 40 per cent of the damages order.
Judge Levy found the injured man was "an impressive and honest witness".
The physical, visual, cosmetic and psychological impacts of the injuries he received "significantly, adversely and permanently affect the plaintiff's daily life and his experiences and interactions with others", the judge found.