A recent case in the Northern Territory Magistrates Court has found that a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) employee who apparently injured his back while sleeping onsite has a compensable injury and is entitled to workers’ compensation.
The employee woke up in severe back pain, attended the site medical clinic and was put on “light duties”, but subsequently resigned and went home. He eventually claimed workers’ compensation.
The employer submitted that the injury was not compensable because sleeping was an “ordinary daily activity required of oneself irrespective of… employment status”. The employee had some degenerative disease and the employer cited that the injury was not caused during or as a result of work.
Magistrate Elizabeth Morris stated that “There are many ordinary daily activities which, in certain circumstances, can be done in the course of employment, including eating, washing, dressing and sleeping”.
Magistrate Morris said the onset of the worker’s pain was too sudden to be attributed entirely to an underlying condition, and found he had been sleeping “in the course of his employment”.
“The worker was obliged to live in accommodation provided by the employer and the reason for the worker being in that location, away from his normal residential address, was to complete assigned shifts and shift breaks as notified by his employer,” she said.
What does this mean for FIFO employers?
Be aware that when an employee is off duty but remains onsite, they may still be entitled to workers’ compensation even though – as in this case – the cause of the injury is pretty much beyond your control.