Bunnings forks out $1.2 million after worker suffers “life-changing” back injury

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
4 Min Read

Bunnings has been forced to make a whopping payout to a worker after she was seriously injured lifting a bucket of fertiliser.

The then 31-year-old Sarah Jane worked as a merchandiser for fertiliser company Neutrog at Seven Hills Bunnings in 2018 and was often forced to adopt awkward body positions to rearrange the 15kg fertiliser buckets on display.

Standing in front of the NSW Supreme Court earlier this week, Ms Jane said that the constant lifting had given her a “life-changing” back injury that plagues her to this day, even forcing her to undergo several lumbar surgeries. 

Her lawyer, Luke Power from Turner Freeman Lawyers, said the significant injury had left his client unable to return to work. 

Upon hearing Ms Janes’s statement, Bunnings agreed to fork out a whopping $750,000 in a settlement, plus an extra $500,000 in legal fees.

As part of the settlement, Bunnings also admitted they “knew or ought to have known” the foreseeable risk when they failed to train Ms Jane in using a pallet jack, which could have prevented the injury.

Ms Jane received training via a Bunnings module but was not given any information on the availability of pallet jacks to assist her in moving stock forward to present to customers, which Bunnings workers regularly use.

“Bunnings owed a duty to merchandisers attending the Bunnings stores to ensure that the merchandisers were advised of the specialised work procedure, including the pallet jack procedure,” the documents said.

“Bunnings devised, controlled and regulated the prevailing system of work for its own employees, but did not apply the same rigour or adopt the same precautions for the merchandisers, who were nonetheless subject to Bunnings control and oversight.”

Mr Power said the team was “incredibly pleased” with the outcome for Ms Jane, painting the victory as a “win for the little guy”. 

“It’s been hard fought, and only in the last couple of weeks have we been able to actually achieve the outcome that she rightly deserved,” he said.

Ms Jane said that emerging victorious after the six-year-long legal battle was nice but “doesn’t really feel like a win”.

“Not just everything that they’ve put me through, but just the injury itself, and how much it’s changed my life and how much I’ve missed out on with my kids when they were young,” she said.

When lifting a heavy load, you should…

  • Get close to the load. Act as if you’re hugging the object. Having the load closer to your body puts less stress on your lower back.
  • Maintain your posture. Keep yourself in an upright position with a straight back while squatting to pick up the object.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles. This will help support the spine throughout the lift. Just don’t forget to breathe.
  • Lift with your legs. Your legs are the strongest muscles in your body— so use them. Keep your back straight and use the power of your legs to raise the object to avoid putting pressure on the spine.
  • Pivot, don’t twist. Turn your whole body to face your destination front on. Your back isn’t designed to twist from side to side.
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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.