Slip in home bathroom was work-related

Slip in home bathroom was work-related

A manager who injured his back at home while he was “hurrying” to answer his work phone has been awarded workers’ compensation, with a commission finding he satisfied the test established by the High Court motel sex case.

Queensland IRC Deputy President Daniel O’Connor found the manager had been on call and his actions at the time of the incident were encouraged by his employer.

At about 10pm on 21 March 2013, the Blenners Transport Pty Ltd fleet service manager sustained a disc protrusion in his lower back when he got out of the shower at home to answer his work mobile and slipped on wet bathroom tiles.

He claimed workers’ compensation, but the employer denied liability, and he appealed.

He told the IRC that he was obliged to answer his work mobile phone every time it rang.

He said his supervisor had chastised him on a number of occasions for not answering it when he was on call, because he was responsible for driver and public safety.

“If a truck’s broken down in the middle of a road or on a blind corner or something… I want to do everything I can to make sure it’s safe as soon as possible,” he said.

The Workers’ Compensation Regulator claimed the manager’s disc protrusion didn’t fall under the definition of “injury” in the State workers’ comp Act.

Deputy President O’Connor said that under the two-part test established in Comcare v PVYW [2013] HCA 41 – where a worker who was injured while having sex on a work trip was denied compensation – the Blenners Transport manager’s injury was compensable if the employer induced or encouraged the activity that caused it.

He said the activity the manager was engaged in at the time of the incident was answering the work telephone, not “running” as claimed by the Regulator.

The manager was anxious to answer the phone before it went to message bank and “was hurrying to do so”, but not running, he found.

“There is little doubt in my mind that on the evidence before the Commission, the [manager] was induced or encouraged to engage in the activity that he did.

“It was a term of the [manager’s] contract of employment with his employer that he make himself available to be on call from time to time; [and] that he was supplied with a work telephone for the purpose of carrying out his employment duties.”

Deputy President O’Connor also found there was a causal relationship between the manager’s fall and his disc protrusion, and upheld his appeal.

He said the six hours between the fall in the bathroom and the onset of his pain, “in the absence of any competing causal incident leads me to conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that the [manager’s] employment was a significant contributing factor to his injury”.