Madam Justice Jacqueline Padavoni Grima has recently ordered a printing company, Seliter Ltd to pay one of its employees €28,000 for stapling his finger to a copy book. Mr Gilbert Micallef who was assigned the position of factory assistant with the defendant company in 2004, filed an application with the First Hall, Civil Court in order to claim compensation after permanently injuring his ring finger at work.
When the incident occurred, Mr Micallef was seated next to a particular machine which is known as a stitcher. The stitcher’s staples were inserted wrongly by another machine known as a collator which eventually stopped working altogether. When Mr Micallef was leaving his seat to check the machine, his foot got caught in the stitcher’s pedal and his hand slid under the stapling head, which in turn stapled his ring finger.
Mr Micallef held that when he was first employed with the defendant company, he was not provided with any training sessions to familiarise himself with the machines. He was merely advised by another employee as to how he should use the machines and this employee and was then left to continue working on the machines on his own. He also revealed that the stitcher was not equipped with a safety guard and he later discovered that two months after the incident the defendant company installed a safety guard.
The goal of the First Hall, Civil Court was to establish whether or not the defendant company failed to act in a diligent and prudent manner. In this regard, the Court made reference to a previous case, namely Paul Grech vs Carmelo Bugeja, where the Court had listed four elements which qualify a work environment as being unsafe. Indeed, a work environment is deemed to be unsafe:
- If the tasks at hand increase the risk of injury and if such injuries are considered to be reasonably foreseeable;
- If there are reasonably achievable means of averting such risks, but preventative actions are not implemented;
- If the injury caused to the plaintiff is produced by the risk at hand;
- If the defendant fails to address the risks in order to protect the plaintiff’s safety.
Madam Justice Jacqueline Padavoni Grima went on to rule that the defendant company had failed to provide the necessary safety measures and training session to protect its employee’s well-being. In fact, the Court held that the company was duty bound to ensure that all its machines were equipped with all the essential safety features and if it was not possible to install these features, then such machines should have been discarded. In this respect, the Court ordered Seliter Ltd to pay Mr Micallef €27,592.44 as compensation for damages.