Worker asleep on the job gets compensation

Shane Cumbers was asleep in his donga at an accommodation village site in Moranbah when he was assaulted in the early hours of the morning.

He suffered injuries to his face and chest and developed PTSD.  Mr Cumbers lodged a claim for workers compensation benefits.  His employer, Civeo Pty Ltd, objected.

Mr Cumbers was employed as an Appliance Technician:  he serviced and repaired kitchen and laundry appliances in the five accommodation camps his employer owned and operated in the Bowen Basin.  He was based at the Moranbah village although himself lived some 300kms away.  His employer offered free food and the use of the donga.

On the night in question Mr Cumbers had finished his shift and began drinking and socialising with other workers at the village camp.  Anther person, who was unknown to Mr Cumbers until that evening and who was a person not employed by Civeo Pty Ltd was part of that group.  It was that person who gained access to a master key, entered Mr Cumbers’ donga at about 1.50am and assaulted him.

The employer argued that because Mr Cumbers had been assaulted by a third party (who was not employed by them) in an incident that  happened while Mr Cumbers was asleep that his work was not a significant contributing factor to his injuries.  If they were correct then no workers’ compensation would be payable.

That began Mr Cumbers’ legal journey.  Would justice prevail?

The Workers’ Compensation Regulator allowed Mr Cumbers’ claim.  That was overturned though by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.  That decision was then appealed to the Industrial Court.

The Industrial Court considered the arguments advanced by the employer.  It noted that it was true that Mr Cumbers was not contractually obligated to reside or sleep at the accommodation camp.  However, the court found that for all practical purposes, for Mr Cumbers to be able to perform his work, he was obligated to stay at the camp.  Had he not been staying at the camp then he would not have been assaulted.

The court concluded that the work was a significant contributing factor to the injury because the arrangements were such that the employer had “induced or encouraged” Mr Cumbers to stay at the camp:  because he was injured while performing a task he was called upon to do then that was sufficient to trigger the entitlements to workers compensation.

Mr Cumber was ultimately able to to access to his workers’ composition 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:

Simon Blackwood (Workers’ Compensation Regulator) v Civeo Pty Ltd and Anor [2016] ICQ 001

[ARForms id=103]