A worker has an unwitnessed fall at work and is injured. How did it happen, and is the employer responsible?

In the recent decision of Cameron v Atlas Heavy Engineering Pty Ltd [2024] QDC 49, the court was required to consider whether Mr Cameron or his employer, Atlas Heavy Engineering Pty Ltd, was responsible for Mr Cameron’s injuries subsequent to a fall.

Mullins Lawyers acted for WorkCover in a claim brought by a machine operator who suffered injuries in an unwitnessed fall at work.

Facts of the claim

The Plaintiff was responsible for supervising a large piece of machinery used to cut steel using a computer-activated torch. The Plaintiff’s work required him to turn off the torch and step onto the bed or “table” of the machine to fix obstructions which was required multiple times throughout the day as stated in the Plaintiff’s evidence.

At some time in the middle of the workday, the Plaintiff was seen on the machine table. Around 30 minutes later, the Plaintiff was found on the floor with dirt on the back of his shirt and a “blank look” on his face. The Plaintiff had no independent recollection of his fall.

The Plaintiff suffered multiple injuries to the lumbar, thoracic and cervical spine, right shoulder and right hip, a minor head injury and a secondary psychological injury.

Evidence at Trial

The key issues at Trial were:

1.  Whether the fall was caused by a seizure (the Plaintiff had a past history of epilepsy);

2.  Whether the Plaintiff was on the machine table or the floor when he fell;

3.  If the Plaintiff was on the machine table when he fell, whether the Defendant breached its duty of care.

With respect to the first question, the Plaintiff’s treating Neurologist, Dr Jayasinghe, considered it likely that a seizure occurred, and His Honour ultimately agreed with this conclusion.

With respect to the third question, His Honour accepted that if a finding was made to the effect that the Plaintiff fell from the machine table, both breach of duty and causation would be proven as the Defendant did not have in place any barrier by which a fall could be prevented, irrespective of the cause of that fall.

Ultimately it was His Honour’s findings with respect to the second question which led to the claim being dismissed. His Honour agreed with our Counsel’s submissions about the approach to be taken by the Court when confronted with equally probable inferences, and accepted that the Plaintiff had been unable to prove that the fall occurred from the machine table as opposed to floor level. His Honour noted in his decision:

“In my view, given that there are two equally competing explanations for the subject incident, the plaintiff has failed to establish negligence; a breach of statutory duty provided for by s 305D of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act; or that the defendant breached any duty thereby causing injury to the plaintiff. It follows the plaintiffs action fails and must be dismissed.”


It is not unusual for injuries to be unwitnessed. What is rare is when the injured worker cannot give their own account of what happened. In that scenario, mere conjecture will not be enough to satisfy the court.  

“The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.”
For the latest publications and updates, click on the link below.
Scroll to Top

Book a consultation