Everyone seems to think the matter’s been settled, but it’s still dragging on. These are the words of Christopher Carstens (36), who lives in an outside room at his parents’ home near Swellendam, in the Western Cape.
Christopher’s life changed in the blink of an eye on 10 September 2014. He’d been working at Southern Oil Limited (Soill), a canola oil producer, in Swellendam, when there was an accident. As a result, his left leg was amputated above the knee and he now only has partial use of his right leg.
“Everyone in town thinks I’ve been compensated but that’s far from true,” Christopher tells YOU.
He’s had to borrow money to build a room for himself, his wife, Natalie (31), and two small children, Odin (2) and Aurora (4), in his parents’ backyard in nearby Suurbraak.
He’d been a boilermaker by profession and he says he was welding at the Soill plant when his legs got trapped in the mill.
But the company disputes Christopher’s claim. “Southern Oil has a different version of events on that fateful day that looks a bit different to what Mr Carstens is claiming happened,” Kellie Becker, the company’s managing director, tells YOU.
“A lack of cooperation on Mr Carstens’ part as well as from other eyewitnesses who’d been closely involved in the incident has sadly resulted in the company being unable to make any factual conclusions after the inquiry into the incident had run its course.”
Recent court documents lodged at the high court in Cape Town show specialists finding Christopher physically and emotionally unfit to work. A clinical psychologist’s report further states he’s suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder ever since the incident.
Now Christopher is waiting on the outcome of a tribunal to determine if he’s permanently unfit to work. “I want a fair tribunal and I wish this whole thing can be settled once and for all.”
He says the ordeal has put him and his family under immense pressure as they’d love to be independent of his parents. They live 40km from Swellendam. His wife does nails and has worked as the manager of a jewellery shop. She’s trying to find work closer to home.
On Friday, Christopher will be hitch-hiking to Cape Town again to have a part of his prosthesis replaced as it’s been causing blisters on his stump.
He says he’s been receiving a monthly stipend of R2 000 from a fund for people who’d been injured at work but he’s going to dispute this in court.
When YOU contacted Kellie about the new documentation submitted to court that might prove Christopher permanently disabled, he said this was the first time the company heard anything about it.
Christopher received his salary for the two years following the accident, as well as an additional R65 489 to assist with his rehabilitation, Kellie states in an email to YOU. “At that state, he’d been deemed medically unfit to work and the company discussed amended employment conditions with him that would’ve accommodated his physical disability. But Christopher never showed up for work. Another request to report to work was made, but once again there was no reaction,” Kellie writes.
But Christopher maintains his emotional and mental ill health had kept him from returning to his old job.
In the meantime, he’s waiting for a tribunal hearing to determine his fate.