Man injured trying to answer work phone from shower: is it compensable?

Robert Ziebath, a Fleet Servies Manager, was showering late one Thursday evening when he heard his work mobile phone ring.  He claimed he had been chastised by his supervisor on a number of occasions in the past for not answering the phone.

So he left the shower and hurried towards the phone.  While doing so he slipped and fell, catching himself on the bathroom vanity and toilet bowl.   He awoke the next morning at about 4am with excruciating pain in his lower back.

Mr Ziebeth made an application for workers compensation.  He claimed that his work was a significant contributing factor to his injury.  His application was rejected by the Workers’ Compensation Regulator.

Mr Ziebath successfully appealed that decision to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.  But the Regulator then appealed and the matter came before the Industrial Relations Court.

The court concluded that the central issue was to determine what activity  was being engaged in at the time of the injury and to then determine whether the employer had induced or encouraged the worker to engage in that activity.

The Regulator argued that the relevant activity was the act of running, which was something the employer had not encouraged.

Mr Ziebath argued to the contrary.  He noted he serviced and repaired the fleet of trucks operated by his employer.  It was part of his role that he be available on-call.  He was supplied with a work phone for that purpose.  He claimed that he felt obliged to answer the phone in case he was needed for advice or the like from drivers at the scene of an accident.

The court ultimately  found that the employer had actually induced Mr Ziebath to answer the phone.  It held that the relevant activity engaged in at the time of the injury was not simply running, it was the answering of the phone.

That meant that the injury occurred in the course of employment and that Mr Ziebath was entitled to access his workers’  compensation benefits.

If this article could be relevant to your situation please contact us.  We’d be more than happy to help guide you through your possible options.

For more details read the full version of the court judgment:

Blackwood v Ziebarth [2016] ICQ 005

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