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All bets are off when it comes to employee safety

All bets are off when it comes to employee safety (Last Updated On: October 30, 2014)

Case study: Australian Leisure & Hospitality Group Pty Ltd v Simon Blackwood (Workers’ Compensation Regulator) and Jonathan Campbell

With spring upon us and festivities high in anticipation for the Melbourne Cup, employers need to be even more mindful about how they conduct themselves at work events and company functions. A recent case with the Australian Leisure & Hospitality Group clearly shows how easy it is for a work party to turn into a legal nightmare.

The court case

Jukes Campbell, who worked at the Noosa Dan Murphy’s liquor store as the fine wine manager, had asked the store manager to photograph her and a colleague running into the water. Mrs Campbell dived head first into the water by accident and suffered head and neck injuries. Mrs Campbell died two days later.

Her widower went on to claim death benefits which was accepted by the workers compensation regulator. Dan Murphy’s appealed to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission and argued that the death of the employee did not arise out of, or in the course of her employment and that her employment was not a significant factor to the injury.

The key question for the Commission was whether the Dan Murphy’s Store Manager had encouraged the employee to participate in a dangerous activity (by the manager taking photos of the employee whilst she was running into the water) at the time of injury. This line of reasoning was used for the infamous Comcare v PVYW case, where Comcare was found not liable for injuries that its employee sustained during a work trip.

The court ultimately concluded that although the liquor store chain encouraged the employee to attend the social function, it had not encouraged or induced her to dive into the Noosa River.

What does this mean for employers?

Although the employer was found not liable for the tragic death of its employee, this case should act as a reminder that employers and managers should remain vigilant when it comes to employee safety during work functions. It only takes a few minutes for what started out as a fun way to unwind to a disaster.

By Serge Gorval, Employment Relations Claims Adviser

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