Tribunal awards workers' comp after karaoke injury

Youth worker threw out his back while setting up

Tribunal awards workers' comp after karaoke injury

In a recent case, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal considered a youth worker’s compensation claim, lodged in respect of an injury he sustained whilst setting up chairs for a school karaoke event. Although there were some inconsistencies in the worker’s recollection of the incident, medical evidence ultimately led the Tribunal to find in his favour.

The youth worker, “FSBS”, was employed by the ACT Department of Education and Training, having commenced employment in 2007. In January 2013, FSBS lodged a workers’ compensation claim regarding a back injury he allegedly sustained the previous year. Comcare accepted liability for this injury and paid FSBS compensation until December 2017, after which time it determined it had no further liability.

FSBS submitted that, in August 2019, he reinjured his lower back. He stated that he was carrying a stack of six chairs to the school oval to set up for a karaoke event when he had to ask a student for assistance due to an onset of lower back pain. He subsequently submitted another claim for workers’ compensation. Comcare denied liability to pay compensation, and FSBS sought a review of its decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. 

The Hearing

The primary issues for the Tribunal were whether FSBS suffered from an “ailment” or an “aggravation” of an existing ailment and, if so, whether his employment was a significant contributing factor. Despite inconsistencies in FSBS’s recollection of events, after reviewing evidence from several medical experts, the Tribunal was satisfied that he developed a soft tissue strain as a result of the incident.

There was no dispute that FSBS’s work duties included carrying chairs and, as such, the Tribunal was satisfied that his soft tissue strain occurred “in the course of his employment”, as required by the legislation. It also found that if FSBS’s soft tissue strain was not considered a “disease”, it also met the legal requirements to be considered a physical “injury”.

Ultimately, the Tribunal found that FSBS’s soft tissue strain caused “partial incapacity for work” and found in his favour.

Key Takeaways

  • When considering a workers’ compensation claim, the Commission will consider both the complainant’s recollection of events, as well as medical evidence and expert opinions
  • The Tribunal will also have regard to an employee’s previous injuries
  • Employers owe a duty of care to ensure a safe workplace for employees
  • Where heavy lifting is required, employers should implement safety protocols, including the use of trolleys or a buddy system

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