Employers Duty of Care where an Employee is Required to Travel for Work

Employers Duty of Care where an Employee is Required to Travel for Work

Case concluded: 15th December, 2016   Settlement amount: $1.2 Million

The Supreme Court of Queensland has  recently handed down a decision of Kerle v BM Alliance Coal Operations Pty Limited & Ors [2016] QSC 304.

The Facts of the case were:-

  • Mr Kerle was employed as a dump truck operator working on a coal mine near Dysart in Central Queensland. His employment required him to work four 12 hour days alternating between day and night shift. His home town Monto was approximately 430km from the mine.
  • prior to accident he had completed a night shifts which required him to work 12 hours from 6pm to 6am four nights in a row.
  • He finished his last shift at 6am and at approximately 10am commenced the 430km journey home.
  • On his journey home he was involved in a single vehicle accident in which his car struck a bridge.

Mr Kerle sustained significant injury including a brain injury and commenced an action against his employer a labour hire company, the party he worked for and the owner of the mine.

Mr Kerle alleged his employer owed a duty to take reasonable care to avoid or minimise the risk of injury to him resulting from the foreseeable risk of fatigue consequent upon him engaging in four consecutive 12 hour night shifts and then undertaking a long distance commuting to his home.

Mr Kerle stated that as part of the exercise of the duty of care the employer should have controlled the lengths of his shifts and/or provided a place to rest and/or provided suitable advice and training about fatigue and/or provided a bus service to transport him to the nearest large town, in his case Rockhampton.

All the Defendants denied such a duty and also stated that the scope of the duty owed by the employer did not extend to protect a worker from injury sustained hundreds of kilometers from the workplace and hours after any work task had been completed.

The Court found that:-

  • the employer had created the risk of fatigue by requiring Mr Kerle to work consecutive 12 hour night shifts,
  • the risk of his driving fatigue emanated from his work activity.
  • the risk of fatigue was created for the profit of the defendants; and
  • the way of minimising the risk of fatigue lay in the employer developing new workplace practices and workplace facilities.

Mr Kerle succeeded in his claim and received over $1.2 million dollars in damages for his injuries.

The importance of this case is that it  means that employees who sustain injury after being required to work long hours in the course of their employment, even if the injury occurs some hours after completion of their employment, may have a right to claim compensation.

If you need expert legal advice in relation to whether you have a claim following a motor vehicle accident as a result of fatigue, please contact one of our expert lawyers today.

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