Mary* I gave 100 per cent to my patients while I was a nurse. Now that I m injured, the system has let me down.

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1 Mary* M ary* had been working as a nurse for the best part of 30 years before she was hurt at work. In April 2003, she was adjusting a trolley carrying a 97 kilogram patient when it threatened to collapse. Although she managed to keep the trolley and the patient upright, the impact caused immediate and severe pain in her lower back. Mary reported the incident, went home and remained off work for three weeks. Upon returning to work in considerable pain, Mary learned that the trolleys in question had twice been condemned by Occupational Health and Safety staff yet the hospital kept using them. As a result of her back injury, Mary was often in agony at work and would break down and cry at times. She undertook a range of treatments but they failed to ease the pain. Over the next 18 months, Mary alternated the hours she worked and changed duties in an attempt to cope. In early 2005, however, the intense pain took its toll and she ceased working and hasn t returned. After finally obtaining an MRI scan and consulting a new specialist, Mary discovered that that she had a tear in her disc. In the ensuing months, she underwent nerve blocks and other treatment. Meanwhile, she stopped I gave 100 per cent to my patients while I was a nurse. Now that I m injured, the system has let me down. receiving payments from her employer. Before her accident, Mary water skied, cycled, worked on the family farm and enjoyed a well-rounded life. Now she finds it difficult to participate in any of these activities and feels uncomfortable walking, sitting, standing and driving distances. She continues to experience nerve irritation in her lower back and pain in her right leg and is unlikely to ever return to nursing. Despite her injuries, she has been told by doctors that she is unlikely to meet the 30 per cent whole person impairment threshold. Therefore, under Tasmania s workers compensation laws, she is ineligible for common law compensation. The system is unfair, Mary says. I gave 100 per cent to my patients while I was a nurse. Now that I m injured, the system has let me down. *Mary s surname has been withheld to protect her privacy.

2 Matthew Harrison T ruck driver Matthew Harrison enjoyed an extremely active lifestyle, regularly running to work, attending the gym, cycling and playing golf. Working for a transport company in May 2002, Matthew was loading his truck when he tripped on a lump of steel and severely injured his back. There were no lights in the back of the truck and the lights on the adjacent dock were inadequate. In fact, a number of workers had previously complained about the lack of lighting in both the trucks and loading area. The dock lights were apparently turned off to save money Matthew suffered an injury to his disc and he underwent fusion surgery twice in 2003 and once in Although he is undertaking some rehabilitation duties for limited hours, Matthew is unable to drive trucks. He continues to experience acute pain in his back and has difficulty bending, lifting, standing for more than 10 minutes and sitting for more than 20 minutes. Matthew is also unable to participate in any of the sporting activities he enjoyed before he was injured. Despite his ongoing problems, Matthew was not assessed as having suffered 30 per cent whole person impairment and was therefore unable to pursue common law damages under Tasmania s workers compensation laws. The hardest thing is the loss of independence and the ability to do something without pain, Matthew says. I have been significantly injured but don t meet the threshold, although I have pain every day. I have a dog that I can t even walk because of my injuries.

3 Moira* M oira* had been working as a nurse in the Launceston area for the best part of 30 years before she was hurt at work. In April 2003, she was adjusting a trolley carrying a 97 kilogram patient when it threatened to collapse. Although she managed to keep the trolley and the patient upright, the impact caused immediate and severe pain in her lower back. Moira reported the incident, went home and remained off work for three weeks. Upon returning to work in some degree of pain, Moira learned that the trolleys in question had twice been condemned by Occupational Health and Safety inspectors yet the hospital kept using them. As a result of her back injury, Moira was often in agony at work and would break down and cry at times. She undertook a range of treatments but they failed to ease the pain. Over the next 18 months, Moira alternated the hours she worked and changed duties within the hospital in an attempt to cope. In early 2005, however, the intense pain took its toll and she resigned from nursing. After seeing a new GP and undergoing an MRI scan, Moira discovered that that she had a tear in her disc. In the ensuing months, she underwent nerve blocks and other treatment. Meanwhile, she stopped receiving I gave 100 per cent to my patients while I was a nurse. Now that I m injured, the system has let me down. payments from her employer. Before her accident, Moira water skied, cycled, worked on the family farm and enjoyed a well-rounded life. Now she finds it difficult to participate in any of these activities and feels uncomfortable sitting, standing and driving distances. She continues to experience nerve irritation in her lower back and pain in her right leg and is unlikely to ever return to nursing. Despite her injuries, she has been told by doctors that she is unlikely to meet the 30 per cent whole person impairment threshold. Therefore, under Tasmania s workers compensation laws, she is ineligible for common law compensation. The system is unfair, Moira says. I gave 100 per cent to my patients while I was a nurse. Now that I m injured, the system has let me down. *Moira s surname has been withheld to protect her privacy. For more information visit

4 Peter Murray F ather of two Peter Murray, of Wynyard, was working as a sand blaster/spray painter when, in October 2002, he was badly injured in a workplace accident. Peter was guiding a steel frame being moved by a crane when the chains holding the frame came off, hitting him and breaking his jaw. He also fractured three vertebrae and suffered nerve damage to his right shoulder. It was later revealed that the chains that came off did not have safety clips. After being rushed to hospital, Peter underwent x-rays and his jaw was operated on a day later. All up, Peter spent six days in hospital. His jaw was wired shut for two months and he was forced to eat food through a straw. He also had to wear a back brace and his shoulder was later operated on in Although Peter s back and jaw have healed somewhat, he still experiences a fair degree of pain. His shoulder has never fully healed and hangs in a deformed way. If his shoulder deteriorates any further, more surgery is likely. As Peter is now unable to lift more than 10 kilograms and perform any overhead work, he cannot climb ladders and is unable to work again in his trade. He has undertaken a range of voluntary work placements, but this has so far failed to lead to paid employment. Peter is now a full-time house husband and his wife has had to return to work to support their children, aged seven and nine. Before his accident, Peter enjoyed a range of sports, including indoor cricket and fishing. Owing to his shoulder injury, he finds it extremely difficult to partake in these activities, and his back also seizes up if he stands for too long. Because of the changes to workers compensation laws in Tasmania, Peter was not eligible to claim a common law damages payout as he did not meet the 30 per cent whole person impairment threshold. He has received some compensation, but the accident and loss of employment has placed significant financial pressure on his family. Peter believes he should have received more compensation. A friend of mine suffered a shoulder injury in a similar accident before the changes to the law, Peter recalls. Although his injuries were not as severe as mine, his payout allowed him to enjoy more quality of life than I ever will.

5 Wayne Clayton T hirty-year-old Wayne Clayton, of Launceston, was an active husband and father who enjoyed football, cricket and playing with his children, aged 6 and 11. He had been working as a driver/storeman for a removal company for 11 years when a serious workplace accident changed his life forever. In 2003, Wayne was reversing a forklift when he collided with a storage container that was sticking out. His foot slipped off the controls and became trapped between the container and the forklift. Despite his safety boots, the first and second toes, and the top of a third toe, were ripped from Wayne s left foot. It had been raining and the moisture caused Wayne s foot to slip from the control pedal, which had no grip. Since his accident, the company has modified its forklifts, installing grip on the pedals and safety guards around the vehicles. Wayne spent two days in hospital where his toes were amputated. He was in bed for four months in almost constant pain, followed by two months in a wheelchair. He then spent another six months on crutches learning to walk. Today, Wayne walks with a lean and suffers knee problems due to the change of his gait. He also experiences electric-shock-like feelings in his toes, which occur on virtually a daily basis. Although he tried, Wayne s injuries made it impossible to return to work. While he had been with the company for 11 years, he was still employed as a casual and was therefore not eligible for long service leave or any other entitlements. He remained unemployed for two-and-a-half years but is now driving trucks for another company on a trial basis. Despite the severity of his injuries, Wayne was assessed as having a Whole Person Impairment of 11 per cent. Under Tasmania s changed workers compensation laws, this meant that Wayne was not eligible for common law damages. He relies on financial assistance from extended family and his wife had to increase her hours of work to make ends meet. Wayne is also unable to participate in social sport and has difficulty playing with his children. As Wayne says: My injuries are plain for everyone to see when I take off my shoe. The accident wasn t my fault and it is unfair that I should have to struggle financially simply because it happened at work.

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