Legal

Worker denied further compensation for potato sack race Christmas party injury

Eloise Keating /

A Canberra worker has failed in his bid to receive further compensation from national government insurer Comcare for an injury he sustained while participating in a potato sack race during a work Christmas party.

Christopher Odell worked for Indigenous Business Australia when he fractured his left leg in multiple spots at a work Christmas party in December 2010. His injury required surgery and Comcare initially granted Odell an unspecified amount of compensation.

However, Odell, who stopped working for the government department in June 2012 when his contract was finished and is now self-employed as a landscape gardener, applied for more compensation on the grounds he is still suffering from the permanent injury.

In a ruling delivered this week, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found while Odell did have a permanent injury, he did not have a 10% impairment, which proof is needed of to warrant further compensation.

Odell argued he was forced to regularly take days off work and is restricted from kneeling, cycling, jogging and walking on uneven ground as a result of the injury.

But the tribunal said the medical evidence provided did not support Odell’s claim that he cannot walk longer than 500 metres without a walking aid or personal assistant.

“He gave us evidence that he can no longer walk up Mt Ainslie with his children. However, that assertion was not tested by either of the medical specialists, walking up Mt Ainslie is not walking on level ground, and the tribunal cannot be satisfied that he meets that criteria,” said the tribunal.

Employment lawyer Peter Vitale told SmartCompany the case raises a number of important issues employers should be mindful of.

“The first thing to note is that this is another example of the definition of a workplace, for the purposes of not just workers’ compensation but also anti-discrimination legislation, being extended to cover work-related functions that might take place outside of the actual physical workplace,” says Vitale.

Vitale says the tribunal’s decision was “essentially decided on the basis of the medical evidence”, which highlights the importance of both objective medical evidence of workplace injuries, as well as the continual monitoring of the evidence provided in ongoing claims.

Vitale also says it is important for employers to manage the longer term impact on their workplace insurance premiums from continued claims from employees who may have left the organisation but are still suffering from an injury obtained in that workplace.

“Part of that is ensuring that the employee’s condition and claims are properly managed from the outset,” he says.

SmartCompany contacted Indigenous Business Australia but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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