A recent case before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal shows that, even when injuries are found to have been sustained in the course of employment, an employee can have no entitlement to compensation.
The plaintiff was employed by Linfox Australia Pty Ltd as a tanker driver.
While delivering a tanker load of fuel, he became involved in a couple’s domestic dispute at a service station. This escalated when the husband punched the plaintiff in the face and a fight ensued.
There was evidence that the plaintiff did not initiate the fight. However, he did retaliate to the husband’s aggressive advances in a manner that escalated rather than diffused the situation.
The plaintiff sustained a knee injury and facial injuries and claimed compensation from his employer.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal found that the plaintiff’s injuries were sustained in the course of his employment as the injuries were sustained while he was engaged in work he was employed to do. In doing that work, it was foreseeable he would come into contact with members of the public. Furthermore, the plaintiff did not initiate the fight, so his behaviour was not enough to take it out of the realm of ‘within the course of’ his employment.
The Tribunal also commented that this was not a case where an incident occurred in an interval or interlude of employment. The plaintiff’s employment duties could not be divided into discrete tasks such that anything in between was an interval. Rather, the tasks needed to be considered as part of his overall employment duties as a tanker driver. In light of this, the Tribunal found that the fight occurred while the plaintiff was engaged in his employment duties.
Despite this, the Tribunal found that the plaintiff, in provoking the husband, voluntarily and unreasonably submitted himself to an abnormal risk of injury and, accordingly, the employer was able to deny compensation under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth).