The Industrial Court of Queensland (ICQ) recently handed down a decision (Blackwood v Civeo Pty Ltd), which will affect certain claims for workers’ compensation.

A male worker was assaulted by a stranger in the early hours of the morning while asleep in a donga at a Moranbah mining accommodation village. The assailant was not a co-worker, but had forcibly obtained a master key to the room with the help of a co-worker.

The question for the ICQ was whether the injury fell under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003(WCRA). The facts of this case are on the borderline of what had previously been considered an injury under the WCRA.

To fall under the WCRA, an injury must ‘arise out of or in the course of’ a worker’s employment, and the employment must be a ‘significant contributing factor’ to the injury.

Importantly, between the hearing of this appeal and the judgment, the Federal Court of Australia delivered its decision in Westrupp v BIS, where the claimant, a FIFO worker, was physically assaulted by a co-worker while attending a tavern during the evening shift change.

In Westrupp, the Federal Court allowed the appeal, noting the injured worker was only in the mining camp as an incident of his employment and the worker would be expected to use the facilities in the vicinity of the mining camp. It was held that the claim for compensation was ‘in the course of’ employment. It was held that an injury would be sustained ‘in the course of employment’ when the injury occurred ‘at and by reference’ to a place, where the injured worker was induced and encouraged to be, through his employment.

In Civeo, the Industrial Court of Queensland similarly ruled that the injury did arise out of or in the course of employment and the employment was a significant contributing factor to the injury.

Why did the injury arise ‘out of or in the course of’ employment?

The employer relied on Croning v Workers’ Compensation Board of Queensland to argue that random crimes by unidentified visitors cannot be part of a system of work.

However, applying the test from PVYW v Comcare, the ICQ concluded the injury occurred ‘at and by reference to’ a place the employer encouraged the injured worker to be and therefore arose out of or in the course of employment.

Why was the employment a significant contributing factor?

The employer argued the employment was merely the setting for the injury, and not a ‘significant contributing factor’ to the injury. This argument was rejected by the ICQ.

The ICQ reasoned that the nature of the injured worker’s employment led to a practical need and inducement to live at the mining camp.

The Court concluded that, had the worker not been there, he would not have been attacked by the assailant. The Court considered it relevant that the security of the rooms was inadequate and access to the injured worker’s room was facilitated by a co-worker.

These facts, and the camp being a closed environment subject to the rules of the employer, led the Court to conclude that the employment was a significant contributing factor to the injury.