Is an injury at home still a workplace injury?
Workplace injuries can be very costly for employers and it now looks like an employer’s liability could continue post-employment and extend to outside the workplace.
In Roberts v Return to Work South Australia (2017), a former truck driver was awarded $17,351 in compensation for an injury he sustained at home, after his employment had been terminated.
The South Australian Employment Tribunal upheld the former employee’s argument that the injury he suffered at home was caused by two previous workplace injuries that occurred during his employment.
The workplace injuries
The worker sustained the previous injuries when:
- He slipped and struck his head when he was attempting to connect air brake lines to a truck; and
- He was involved in a crash (which was no fault of his own) whilst driving a company vehicle.
The impact from the crash caused the worker to blackout.
Both injuries caused him to suffer from regular and ongoing dizzy spells and impaired balance. Due to the injuries, the worker returned to work for 6 months on light duties. Shortly after this period his employment was terminated.
A month after the worker’s employment had ended, he suffered from a dizzy spell at home which caused him to fall and hit his head on a heavy wooden table, causing him to become fully deaf in one ear. The worker claimed that this at-home injury was caused by his workplace injuries and that he was entitled to compensation.
The South Australian Employment Tribunal considered the incident in light of that state’s Return to Work Act 2014 (SA). For an injury to be considered work-related and compensable, there are two basic requirements: the injury must arise out of or in the course of the person’s employment, and the worker’s employment must be a significant contributing cause of the injury.
On appeal the South Australian Employment Tribunal found that the two workplace injuries were a significant contributing cause of the at-home injury. As a result, the post-employment injury qualified as a workplace injury and the driver was entitled to compensation.
The takeaway for Employers
This case demonstrates the importance of employers having clear and effective safety procedures in place to reduce both the incidence and severity of workplace accidents.
If the employer in this instance had such procedures in place, the truck driver’s first injury may have been avoided entirely, which would have reduced the severity of the second injury (in worsening the dizzy spells and impaired balance) and, in turn, may have even prevented the third accident from ever occurring.
If you have any questions relating to drafting and implementing effective workplace safety procedures please do not hesitate to contact Nick Stevens, Jane Murray or Angharad Owens-Strauss.