A worker who suffered serious spinal injuries when a roof he was working on collapsed has been awarded over €300,000 in damages after a court ruled that his employer was responsible for what had happened
The accident happened at the St Vincent de Paule Hospital on 12 August, 1999, where C&F Building Contractors were carrying out construction works.
Atef Zarrouk was helping to prepare for the dismantlement of a roof which caved in, causing him to fall a height of more than one storey. He suffered serious spinal injuries as a result, and is now a wheelchair user.
Mr Zarrouk told the court that he had never previously worked on dismantling a roof. But on the eve of the accident, a colleague who did such work left the workplace early due to the heat, and his enraged foreman asked Mr Zarrouk to take over the next day.
While such work was typically carried out by three people, Mr Zarrouk was left alone on the day of the accident.
The company argued that it was not responsible for the injuries Mr Zarrouk had suffered, but Judge Joseph Azzopardi argued differently.
The testimony suggested that Mr Zarrouk was often asked by the foreman to carry out dangerous work, and that this work was never refused.
Mr Justice Azzopardi noted that the foreman was not aware of the company’s health and safety policies and that no health and safety officer was present when the work was taking place. He also concluded that Mr Zarrouk would not have been so seriously injured had the company taken basic precautions.
Mr Zarrouk was 29 when the accident took place, and his compensation was based on the fact that he would have expected to work until 65 and on the present minimum wage, which exceeds what Mr Zarrouk was earning at the time.
He was thus awarded a total of €327,258.50.