FIFO worker denied compensation after workmate death

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A Queensland FIFO worker has lost an appeal for workers compensation for psychological injury after witnessing his co-workers dead body wheeled away.

On January 31, 2013, Mr Sansom, a Caval Ridge mine bus driver, arrived at the Moranbah accommodation camp to the news that his co-worker, Brett Hawkins, had died inside his donga.

Sansom claimed he sustained psychological injury from the shock and grief associated with the death of his co-worker, and seeing the body on a stretcher being wheeled to a coroner’s van, and that his condition was worsened by conversations with colleagues about the way Hawkins had died.

A doctor appeared as a witness and said Mr Sansom suffered anaphylaxis attacks after the death of his co-worker.

Mr Sansom, who worked at Dysart occasionally and lived in Brisbane, was originally denied workers compensation and appealed this decision at the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commissioner Gary Black dismissed the appeal, concluding that “the employment was not a significant factor in the development of the injury”.

“While the death of Mr Hawkins remained a background cause of anxiety, it was the implications of the anaphylactic reactions on his health, well-being and mortality, and his heightened fear of dying which raised the appellant’s anxiety to a level which led to his emotional breakdown or decompensation. His initial ruminations about Mr Hawkins’ death were seriously transformed by the anaphylactic attacks and the adverse effects of his medications regime,” Mr Black said.

“The loss of life is a personal tragedy for Mr Hawkins and his family and friends, but I doubt that the association of this event with the exigencies of the appellant’s employment can be made out on the basis that the appellant was a co-worker of Mr Hawkins and both men were accommodated in the same work camp.

“Significantly, the appellant was in Brisbane when Mr Hawkins died and had not been on site for a week. While Mr Hawkins body had not been removed from the site when the appellant arrived, the physical connection was limited to a fleeting sighting of the body as it was transferred to the coroner’s van.”

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