Ross Phillips spent three decades as a labourer and demolition worker on sites across Melbourne. But in late 2014, the Craigieburn father of three’s ability to do his job was swiftly taken away in the cruellest of workplace accidents.
On September 13, 2014 while working for PPK Demolition, Mr Phillips was on a scissor lift – eight metres above the ground – removing ceiling panels at a warehouse in Airport West.
One of the three-metre panels fell, knocking the scissor lift over, throwing Mr Phillips to the concrete ground below resulting in a list of permanent injuries.
Mr Phillips suffered severe spinal injuries (including vertebrae fractures), head injuries, hearing loss and tinnitus in his left ear, damage to his right knee, right shoulder and neck, carpel tunnel syndrome, scarring and disfigurement.
He has also suffered depression, stress and anxiety as a direct result of the trauma experienced.
“I was actually millimetres from being a paraplegic,” Mr Phillips said. “My 19-year-old son was working with us that day, he came over to me when I was on the ground and thought I was dead.
“I’ve had so many injures, including three fractures in my spine, I’ve had two steel rods inserted and they’ve fused my spine. The whole thing has been a nightmare.”
Mr Phillips, who can only walk with the aid of a walking stick, is now unable to work despite intending to be employed for another two decades.
“It’s easy to think that a workplace accident won’t happen to you and I never once imagined that I would be in the position where I couldn’t work,” Mr Phillips said.
“There’s nothing more important than a safe work site. I should never have been put in the situation that I was in and now me and my family living with the consequences.
“I’m dealing with depression and anxiety – it really has made the whole process so much harder.”
Mr Casey said Mr Phillips’ lack of earnings combined has it made it very difficult to support himself and his family.
“Mr Phillips’ employer owed him a duty of care, which was clearly not delivered and now he has been left with injuries that he will never recover from,” Mr Casey said.
“He has been robbed of his opportunity to enjoy life as well as more than 20 years of his working life because of this accident.”