Worker’s caustic burns compo claim cut

A worker seeking compensation for burning his foot with caustic soda has had his claim reduced after footage emerged of him performing karate.

Paul Kennedy sought damages from Queensland Alumina Limited after he was injured in January 2012, when he came in contact with a caustic soda solution, used to dissolve aluminium-bearing minerals in bauxite, after his manager instructed him to replace a part in a pipe.

According to court reports Kennedy was not trained in the task at the time and had never performed the task previously.

The court also heard Kennedy used a ratchet to turn a valve on the pipe from open to closed but scale build-up on the pipe and the size of the ratchet obscured his view of the label on the valve, which was already closed.

The blockage prevented the majority of the caustic soda from being released and when Kennedy undid three or four bolts, the caustic soda solution sprayed him "with force" and “melted” his boot.

A similar incident occurred earlier this month, and saw a worker hospitalised

Kennedy claimed the incident had caused him chronic pain, and, “Any knock to my ankle is also really painful and sometimes causes a burning/nerve type pain which shoots up the back of my calf."

“On a scale of one to 10, I would describe the pain, at worst, as something above seven out of 10."

In initial court hearings Kennedy appeared in the witness box wearing the only footwear he could wear – thongs – because of his extensive surgery and the multiple skin grafts to his badly burned left heel and ankle.

However footage has emerged of him performing martial arts, and using his left leg and foot without any apparent pain issues, according to the Brisbane Times.

The video shows Kennedy pivoting and flailing out with his left foot repeatedly.

The judge presiding over the latest case said, "There is no sign of a limp and no hint of any discomfort. He appears unconcerned that he is using his left foot to strike his opponent. I have watched the video a number of times.”

The footage has been used to reduce compensation, although it will not negate it.

QAL admitted to being liable for incident, although it did state Kennedy’s negligence was a contributing factor, and while Kennedy was trained for the job, the employer had failed to mark the valves correctly.

Because of the new footage the amount of compensation initially awarded to Kennedy will now be halved to just over $191,000, with Kennedy ordered to pay QAL’s costs.

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