FIGHTING FAIR: Meghan Rothery says employers have a duty to keep workers safe.
FIGHTING FAIR: Meghan Rothery says employers have a duty to keep workers safe. Allan Reinikka Rokarothery

Man sues former employer for $500,000 over back injury

A SINGLE dad of two is suing his former employer for more than $500,000 after a severe back injury left him in pain every day and unable to work.

Documents lodged in the District Court of Queensland show Calvin David Kerwitz was working as a pest control technician with Rentokil Pest Control in Kawana when he sustained the injury in 2014.

Part of Mr Kerwitz's work involved performing pest control at the Kunwarara Mine north of Rockhampton using a motorised backpack spray unit weighing between 25kg and 30kg when full of fuel and poison.

The documents state the 42-year-old would operate the unit for five to six hours at a time, taking breaks about every 40 minutes.

Mr Kerwitz alleges the shoulder straps of the unit couldn't be adjusted and continually moved on his back, causing pain and discomfort after roughly an hour of use.

The documents state zip ties had been attached to the shoulder straps to fix their length.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Rockhampton, the firm representing Mr Kerwitz, have outlined pain, discomfort, stiffness, nerve symptoms and a decreased range of motion as the consequences of the injury.

Senior associate Meghan Rothery said employers had a duty to keep workers safe, but alleged Mr Kerwitz's company had given "no consideration" to the risks of the unit or the length of time it needed to be used.

"Our client is not a large man and the weight of this piece of equipment was more than one third of his body weight," she said.

"Our client has only ever worked in physical labour roles.

"His employer has now terminated him because he is no longer fit to do his job because of this back injury.

"He is also not fit to do any other work for which he is experienced because of this injury.

"This claim is not about some bonus payment.

"This claim is about (Mr Kerwitz) receiving compensation for what this injury will cost him."

The documents lodged in court state Mr Kerwitz has had to rely on his teenage sons to complete a number of house and yard chores.

It's understood he is now only able to work in sedentary jobs which will permit frequent changes of posture, but will require retraining to secure any such role.

The Morning Bulletin contacted Rentokil Pest Control on several occasions, but did not receive a response before deadline.