An abattoir and meat processing business was found to have
breached its duty of care to its plant manager. The manager, who
worked on-call hours 24 hours a day, twice collapsed at work due to
stress and exhaustion. His employer later retrenched him.
The plant manager, Mr Roussety, was required to work excessive
hours and was expected to be available 24 hours a day to manage
plant breakdowns. In 2007, Mr Roussety made several complaints
about work-related stress and excessive hours, which included:
a plant equipment breakdown in February 2007, which caused Mr
Roussety to be at work for 20 hours over a 36-hour period;
on 26 February 2007, Mr Roussety fainted at work and was
subsequently absent from work;
a second major plant breakdown, which required Mr Roussety to
work excessive hours and take calls throughout the night; and
in July 2007, Mr Roussety collapsed again and was taken to
Duty of care
Mr Roussety brought a civil suit against his employer for
negligence for failing to meet its duty of care.
The Supreme Court found that the employer's duty of care
required it to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe system
of work, which includes a duty to avoid any foreseeable risk of
psychiatric injury to the employee in the course of their
The Supreme Court found that the employer breached its duty of
care to Mr Roussety. Justice Zammit said that it was reasonably
foreseeable that, following Mr Roussety's collapse and his
ongoing complaints regarding support, staff shortages and long
hours, he might develop a psychiatric condition caused by work.
Furthermore, a reasonable person in the employer's position
would have acted to prevent the injury by:
putting measures in place to prevent excessive work hours;
setting certain hours where Mr Roussety could be relieved of
A further hearing will be held to determine the liability of the
employer for the injury and damages.
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An employer's duty is very high and can include engaging experts to inspect things such as stairways for latent defects.
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