Workers Win In Supreme Court Judgement On The Duty Of Care Owed By Employers

Written by Noah Mortensen

The Supreme Court of Queensland has ruled that employers owe a significant duty of care towards employees for their fatigue from working long night shifts. Despite the accident occurring far from and well after work, the Court found that employers should be providing a high standard of care towards their worker’s education.

Mr. Harold Kerle was severely injured in an accident occurring in a drive home from his working location in October 2008. Almost three hundred kilometres away from his working location and four hours after his shift ended, Kerle had a motor vehicle accident. The accident occurred as he fell asleep and crossed lanes, colliding with an oncoming vehicle. He suffered personal injury from the accident which required compensation amounting to $1,250,000.

Mr. Kerle showed that he was entitled to sue his employers for being negligent through the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003, which provides for injuries caused by incidents when travelling between work and home. As the car accident was still part of his travel home from work, it was covered by the Worker’s Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003.

The Court then examined the facts Mr. Kerle and his expert advice provided. He had been given three consecutive night shifts lasting over 12 hours each, which interrupted his body’s natural rhythm. He was very fatigued as a result of his work, but was not aware of his tiredness at any point, had been a truck driver for many years, and also had a good driving record. Mr. Kerle was not allowed to refuse the shifts given to him.

Having considered all of these elements, the Court decided that the employers for Mr. Kerle owed him a duty of care, and were responsible for the injuries he suffered as a result of the motor vehicle accident. The Court stated that the employer should have provided much better training about fatigue, and its risks, and should be more responsible when giving out shifts. They could have reduced the risk to their workers by providing a bus service, or a resting period and a place to rest for their workers at the end of the shift.

Mr. Kerle’s injuries were ordered to be compensated by the Court, upholding employer’s responsibility to give their employees proper training and care.

If you have been injured while working or on your way to work, you are entitled to compensation. Contact Revolution Law’s team of professionals to discuss how to make a compensation claim for your workplace injury.