In order for an employee to be entitled to workers compensation under the SA Return to Work Act 2014 (RTW Act), there needs to be a link between the injury sustained and the employee’s employment.
In the case of Benjamin Backhouse (the employee), the SA Employment Tribunal deemed that an injury he sustained whilst playing cricket was found to be linked to his work and therefore compensable, despite the employer not directing or inducing him to play cricket.
The employee’s roster involved working seven days on a night shift before having 24 hours off before switching over to seven days on the day shift.
In order to ensure that he would be well rested for the day shifts, the employee would play sport to help him stay awake during the morning and afternoon on his day off so that he would sleep that night and switch his body clock around.
On the 6th of February 2016, the employee went to a workplace bar for drinks where staff stated he had consumed 10 standard drinks. The employee denied having this many. The employee played a game of cricket soon after and injured his knee whilst batting.
Due to the fact that the employee was playing cricket to stay awake during the day in order to sleep that night and to ensure he was not fatigued whilst undertaking the day shift, he argued that the injury was connected to his employment. In addition, the employer’s Code stated that it was the duty of their staff to “manage their rostered time off to prevent the effects of fatigue from impacting on their ability to perform their work.”
The employer argued that it was the responsibility of the employee to manage their transition between night and day shift and that they never compelled the employee to play cricket or another sport in order to assist with this, as well as not condoning drinking alcohol.
Whilst the tribunal acknowledged that had an employee simply been playing cricket at the end of a working day there would not be a sufficient connection to his employment. In this instance, it found a link between the cricket game and his employment did exist.
The tribunal found that the employee had played cricket in order to satisfy the obligations imposed on him by his employer to prevent fatigue and to ensure that the work he performed was able to be done at an appropriate standard. As such, the injury did arise from employment and was compensable.
The implications of this decision on an employer is to be mindful that even when a worker is on their rest period an injury sustained could still be covered by WorkCover provided that the activity they are involved in is related to satisfying their obligations to an employer.
It is also important for an employer to understand the obligations they impose on their employees and any polices, codes of conducts and so on, could create a link to their employment for an activity that would ordinarily be separate.If you have any enquiries relating to whether or not an employee’s injury could be connected to employment or any other issues regarding workers compensation please contact the MTA on (08) 8291 2000 or email us by clicking here.