It took almost two years, but Moreton Bay-based plasterer Adrian finally got what he wanted: proof that he wasn’t lying about what happened to him at work.
The father of three had spent more than 20 years building a career as a reputable and skilled tradie when it came crashing down after he suffered irreparable neck and shoulder damage.
Adrian shared with us when he knew it was time to talk.
Safe worksites matter
Adrian has worked on plenty of job sites. After following his dad into plastering when he left school at 15, he’s never one to shy away from a hard day of work.
But on a construction site with a tight deadline, Adrian felt pushed to breaking point as he managed an overwhelming workload with not enough support.
“I was throwing up sheets by myself, carrying sheets for 30 metres to get them to where I needed them to be,” he says.
“I’d walk around the job site looking for an apprentice or someone to help, and I couldn’t find anyone to help.”
“You can’t stand around waiting all day. You do what you have to do to get it done.”
When scans reveal the worst
After at least six months of relentless work, Adrian started getting pain in his shoulder, which he initially wrote off as just being part of the job.
After a couple of weeks the pain hadn’t gone away, so Adrian went to a doctor for scans.
“By this point, it had gotten to the point that I couldn’t do my normal stuff. I was slow,” he says. “But still, you don’t expect the worst.”
The scans showed that Adrian had suffered major damage to his right shoulder and neck. His doctor recommended physio, which he reported back to his employer.
“I showed them my scans but when I got allocated work, it was still heavy work. They told me to just do what I could,” says Adrian.
“I knew that I had to keep going because if I didn’t get the work done, they’d sack me.”
A couple of weeks later, that’s exactly what happened. Adrian had submitted a WorkCover claim online, and by 4pm the next day, his employer told him there was no more work for him.
Knowing it was time to talk
Initially, Adrian managed to secure weekly payments through WorkCover and even began participating in a return-to-work program.
But after only a few short months, his payments were terminated. He felt like no one believed him.
“I was stuck; everyone had dumped me and gone,” says Adrian. “I felt like I had no choice. I didn’t know how the system worked or what to do.”
Initially, Adrian tried to find out his rights from another law firm, who told him that he didn’t have a case. It left him feeling defeated, but after reconsidering his options, he decided to give Smith’s a call.
“I was surprised when I spoke to Greg. I didn’t expect the bloke whose name was on the door to be talking to me.”
“It was the best phone conversation I’d had in a while.”
Adrian will be the first to say the process wasn’t easy, but it was good to finally have someone on his side.
“I knew I could ring Smith’s at any time if I needed them. You never felt like you were forgotten or just a number on the book,” he says.
Life on the other side
Adrian knows life will never be the same. He continues to experience pain in the right side of his neck, which occasionally travels down his arm and makes his fingers go numb. Using his right arm causes him pain, and some nights, sleep is impossible. His physio says he’s still got a long way to go.
He also needs to find a new career and while he’s currently looking at his options through TAFE, he doesn’t sugar coat the fact that it’s been tough figuring out what to do next.
“Plastering is all I’ve ever done. I’ve never done anything without physical labour. It’s not like I can go back to some office job,” he says.
Despite this, Adrian reckons that the silver lining is being able to say he wasn’t lying about what happened to him.
“This was about proving I wasn’t a liar. It was nice to have someone else validate what I was saying, like it wasn’t just me who was thinking that it shouldn’t work this way,” he says.
“All the way, they make out that you’re full of it, but at the end I can now turn around and say that I wasn’t.”