A MAN who lost both his hands in a wood chipping machine is likely to sue Warrnambool City Council for compensation, his solicitor has revealed.
Maddens Lawyers has told The Standard it will bring legal action “at the appropriate time” on behalf of David Johnstone, who lost his hands while feeding tree limbs into the chipper at Bushfield in September last year while working for the council’s parks and gardens team.
“In these proceedings it will be alleged that the incident was due to the council’s negligence,” solicitor Gary Foster said.
“One of the allegations against the council will be that it failed to provide a safe system of work for Mr Johnstone.
“While there has been a public outpouring of goodwill for David from not only the council, but also the broader community since the tragedy, the fact is that if such a system of work which the council now regards as proper was already in place back in September, David almost certainly would not have lost both of his hands and had his life tipped upside down.
“The council decided to lock this barn door well and truly after the horse had bolted.”
A council spokeswoman said yesterday it had not been notified of Maddens’ legal action. Earlier this month the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) upheld an appeal by the council against a WorkCover Authority order to retrofit a safety bump bar to the chipping machine.
The council challenged the order, arguing that safety features of the chipper and systems it had introduced since the accident reduced the risk “so far as is reasonably practicable”.
VCAT deputy president Heather Lambrick said the council’s new safety measures were “commendable additional safeguards”.
However, Mr Foster said the VCAT ruling related solely to retrofitting of a bump bar and there were much wider circumstances involved in the incident.
“During the VCAT proceedings council conceded the degree of harm which may arise from an incident involving a wood chipper was considerable,” he said.
“The better system of work after the accident is telling.”