An employer was liable for compensation for injuries sustained to a worker while playing cricket in an attempt to prevent the effects of fatigue impacting upon his ability to perform his work.

In Issue

  • Whether the injuries sustained by the worker whilst playing cricket occurred in the course of employment.

The Background

Mr Benjamin Backhouse was a fly in fly out worker for Byrnecut Australia Pty Ltd (the employer) at the Oz Minerals site at Prominent Hill. The shifts he worked involved seven days on night shift (6:00pm – 6:00am), followed by a full 24 hours off, then a change to the day shift for seven days (6:00am – 6:00pm). He would then fly home for a week.

Mr Backhouse explained that for his full day of rest after the night shift ending, it was his practice to play basketball, cricket or football between approximately 10:00am and 2:00pm, after which he would nap before going to dinner at approximately 5:00pm, and then going to sleep. He stated “Ideally I need to stay awake for the whole day after changeover from a night shift so that I can reset my body clock to sleeping at night and working in the day.” It was submitted that playing cricket enabled Mr Backhouse to stay awake.

On the subject date, being on a day of rest following completion of his night shift, Mr Backhouse injured his left knee during a game of cricket played between 10.00am and 12.00pm.

The Decision

The Tribunal found that:

  • Mr Backhouse’s injury arose in the course of employment
  • employment was a significant contributing cause of the injury
  • the injury occurred during a sporting activity which was a part of his work, as required for compensation by section 7 of the Return to Work Act 2014 (SA).

The Tribunal considered that, had Mr Backhouse simply been playing cricket at the end of a working day, it would not have been sufficiently connected to his employment. However, taking precautionary action to prevent “impairments on fitness for work, including the adverse effects of fatigue, stress, alcohol or other drugs” was a key duty imposed in the employer’s Code of Conduct and Policies. The Code also imposed a duty for staff to “manage their rostered time off to prevent the effects of fatigue from impacting on their ability to perform their work.”

The Tribunal concluded that, as Mr Backhouse participated in the cricket game to satisfy his obligations to prevent fatigue and therefore perform his work diligently, the cricket game was sufficiently connected to his employment to be considered “part of the worker's employment” as required by s 7(2). Therefore, the injury did arise from employment and was compensable.

Implications for you

The decision reminds employers that, even if a worker is on a rest period, injuries can be compensable if sustained while the worker is involved in an activity to satisfy their duties to the employer.

Benjamin Backhouse v Return to Work SA [2018] SAET 40