The Facts

Mechanic injured while repairing loader

A light vehicle mechanic employed by a service company was working as an independent contractor for a landscaping and garden supply company to service bulldozers, excavators, forklifts, trucks and wheel loaders across their 15 work sites.

In early 2007, the mechanic was directed to service a Volvo wheel loader that was owned and operated by the landscaping company. The machine had been damaged and the mechanic was unable to realign and fasten the bolts of the "bash plate" on one side. As a short-term solution, the bash plate was welded on so that the loader could be quickly put back into operation.

Later in 2007 the mechanic was again directed to service the wheel loader. While he was attempting to remove the bash plate, which weighed approximately 200 kilograms, it fell onto the ground, crushing his right arm.

Mechanic brings action in negligence against company

The mechanic brought an action in negligence against the landscaping company, alleging amongst other things that it had failed to provide a safe place of work and permitted him to work on a loader which it knew to be defective.

The landscaping company brought a cross claim against the service company that employed the mechanic for breach of contract, indemnity and/or contribution.

It was for the court to determine whether the mechanic was entitled to compensation for his injuries and, if so, who should pay.

case a - The case for the mechanic

case b - The case for the landscaping company

  • The people who supervised my work at the landscaping company regularly put enormous pressure on me to complete work within an unrealistic time frame, using inadequate tools, materials in poor condition and insufficient assistance.
  • When I came to service the loader the second time, I was not aware that the bash plate had not been fully repaired.
  • The landscaping company permitted me to work on a loader that it knew to be defective and it failed to provide me with the instructions and resources to complete the work safely having regard to that defect.
  • I was not to blame for the accident and I should be compensated fully for the serious injuries, loss and damage that I have sustained because of the accident.
  • It was not our job to supervise or direct the mechanic in any way and we did not provide instructions on the performance of his work.
  • No-one working for our company is a qualified mechanic; that is precisely why we engaged a separate company with expertise in this area to perform that work.
  • It was the responsibility of the mechanic and the service company that employed him to ensure that adequate resources and equipment were available to complete the jobs at hand safely.
  • As a company we were and are committed to eliminating unsafe work practices and we have written evidence to support this. All yard managers and equipment mechanics were advised in writing that the penalty for unsafe work practices is instant dismissal.

So, which case won?
Cast your judgment below to find out

Vote case A – the case for the mechanic
Vote case B – the case for the landscaping company

Sian-Louise Perez
Workers compensation
Stacks Goudkamp

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