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Workers Compensation

When does a worker arrive at their place of employment?

The Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 provides, in general terms, that an injury suffered by a worker does not arise from a worker’s employment (and therefore is not compensable) if it occurs while the worker is travelling in either direction between the worker’s place of residence and the worker’s place of employment.

The application of that provision is straight forward in cases such as a motor vehicle accident on the way to work, but what if the injury happens while getting out of the car in the car park, or a worker falls on the front steps of the office building? Has the worker already reached their “place of employment”, or are they still travelling between their place of residence and place of employment?

The Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (TASCAT) recently decided a case that addresses this question: R v Mondelez Australia Pty Ltd [2022] TASCAT 39.

The worker was employed to work at the Cadbury factory in Claremont, Tasmania. The worker suffered an ankle injury when he stepped off a curb next to the gatehouse where employees enter a fenced off area around the factory. He had not yet clocked on or commenced his shift for the day. The worker had driven to work and parked in a carpark just outside the fenced area and was walking to the gatehouse at the time of the injury. The car park was on land owned by the employer and was maintained by the employer but was accessible to the public.

In deciding the case the Senior Member needed to decide which criteria are relevant to determining whether a worker has reached their “place of employment”. The worker argued that cases from other jurisdictions should be applied in Tasmania when considering the meaning of that phrase, however the Senior Member ultimately affirmed that the relevant test in Tasmania is the test that was set out by Blow J in Taylor v State of Tasmania [2002] TASSC 118, in which His Honour had provided the following helpful guidance:

The meaning or definition of the term “place of employment” involves a question of law, but the question of what constitutes a worker’s place of employment on a particular day (ie, where its boundaries are) is a question of fact. A large employer might occupy a site that covers a very large area, perhaps even with public streets passing through it. In such a case, difficult questions of fact might arise as to the boundaries of a particular worker’s place of employment. If, for example, a university occupies a large campus with public streets passing through it, the whole campus might be the place of employment of the vice-chancellor, but a lecturer in a particular faculty whose duties would never take him or her outside that faculty’s building might have a substantially smaller place of employment. The place of employment of a nurse working solely within the main building of the Launceston General Hospital might not include the compactor area, the laundry, or the boiler house.

Applying that reasoning, the Senior Member determined that the worker travelled to and from the same factory each day to undertake his duties, and that his “place of employment” was the area of the employer’s manufacturing buildings and other premises contained within the perimeter fence, which the worker was able to access only through the gatehouse. As the worker had not yet entered the gatehouse, it was concluded that his injury had occurred while he was travelling between his residence and his place of employment.