Worker sues for $1.4m after gas well injury
NIC Barr had a good life, his dream job from which he earned good money, a wife and two children - then one step backward changed it all.
A diesel fitter by trade, Mr Barr was working as a field service technician on gas fields near Kogan west of Dalby in August 2015 when he suffered what he thought to be a minor injury but what turned out to be a broken back that was to change his life considerably.
He has not been able to work since and still suffers from permanent nerve damage despite spinal fusion surgery and has been on Centrelink benefits since his Work Cover ended.
He estimates he has lost more than $400,000 in wages on top of medical bills and had to sell his house and move to Brisbane to be closer to medical treatment.
He blames a simple 30cm step down from a gas well head.
He had been checking well heads in a field on which 1m high grass had been slashed but left on the ground.
Mr Barr stepped down onto the grass under which was a rock on which his heel landed, rolling his ankle.
"I thought I'd broken my ankle but then thought it was just badly sprained," Mr Barr said.
He returned to the fields but noticed he was getting back pain and spasms when driving over rough roads and paddocks.
His condition worsened until a couple of months later a doctor had "precautionary" X-rays done.
"He told me I had a broken vertebrae," Mr Barr said.
Earlier this month, Shine Lawyers on behalf of Mr Barr filed a statement of claim with the Supreme Court of Queensland seeking $1.4 million damages for alleged negligence by his then employers.
"I honestly love the job but I don't think I'll be able to go back to it so I'm hoping to retrain in another field," Mr Barr said.
"In the end I've got nothing to lose (by seeking damages), I've lost everything already and it's put a strain on my relationship with my wife.
"If nothing else, I'd like to get something for her."
Shine Lawyers solicitor Joel Blane said Mr Barr was entitled to the compensation after suffering from a serious injury through no fault of his own.
"Our client's claim alleges that both his employer and the entity responsible for the gas well had an obligation to provide a safe place of work and by failing to remove the slashed grass and rocks from the work area, they have failed to do that," he said.
"It is claimed that both defendants are liable for the significant injuries that have been caused and which have prevented Nic from returning to work in the coal seam gas industry.
"This preventable incident goes to show how a mistake in the workplace can have a major impact on someone's livelihood, and employers must ensure the safety of their workers is paramount."