FIFO worker denied compensation over co-worker death

A Queensland FIFO worker has lost an appeal for compensation relating to psychological trauma after seeing a deceased co-worker.

On 31 January 2013 Caval Ridge bus driver Warren Sansom witnessed the body of a co-worker, found dead in his accommodation, on a stretcher being wheeled to a coroner’s van.

Sansom claimed he sustained a psychological injury from the shock and grief associated with learning of the death of his co-worker Brett Hawkins, and that his condition was worsened by conversations with colleagues about the way Hawkins had died.

Five weeks after the incident Sansom filed a compensation claim with Workcover Queensland for “psychological injury occurring 11 February 2013 as a result of work related issues”.

In oral testimony Sansom said that he had been admitted to hospital on 1 February 2013, however records showed that the date of his admittance was 11 February, and that he was admitted for anaphylactic reaction.

Sansom submitted to the Queensland Industrial relations Commission that doctors had said his reaction was likely caused by a “panic attack”, and he had also informed hospital staff that he was trying to give up smoking.

Sansom had also been treated for a neck pain on 3 and 5 February, after falling while cleaning a bus on 2 February.

Sansom returned to the Moranbah camp on 12 February and attended the site medical centre, staying there for most of the day and then returning to his room where he began to feel unwell again and informed a nurse.

Again Sansom was sent to hospital with anaphylactic shock, and doctors recorded no symptoms the next day.

The determination by Industrial Commissioner Black did not find that Sansom’s employment was a contributing factor in his illness.

“The loss of life is a personal tragedy for Mr Hawkins and his family and friends, but I doubt that the association of this event with the exigencies of the appellant's employment can be made out on the basis that the appellant was a co-worker of Mr Hawkins and both men were accommodated in the same work camp,” Black said.

“I am of the view that, having arrived at the camp site and collected the keys to his accommodation and having reached a point which was proximate to his employer's office when informed of Mr Hawkins' death, a conclusion can be justified to the effect that, had the injury been sustained at that point in time, the appellant had already arrived at his place of employment. It follows that the appeal cannot succeed pursuant to the terms of s 35 of the Act.”

Image: ABC

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