Defining a worker’s ‘place of employment’ requires contextual analysis of more than just the physical boundaries of the workplace itself.
- The primary issue for determination in this proceeding was whether, according to s 25(6) of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (TAS) (‘the Act’), a worker’s injury occurred whilst he was travelling between his place of residence and his place of employment.
The facts were that the worker had parked his car in the car park within the property boundaries at his place of employment and was making his way by foot towards the building he worked from. He tripped over when attempting to cross a designated pedestrian crossing because a truck that was covering the crossing prior to him walking across it stopped suddenly in front of him. As he stepped backwards to avoid the truck he tripped in the gutter and felt pain immediately in his ankle. The worker argued he was at his place of employment because he was within the defined property boundary where the employer operated their business.
The employer disputed the claim because the injury occurred whilst the worker was travelling between his place of residence and his place of employment. This is because at the time of the injury the worker had not physically entered the area of the property, nor the building, that he regularly worked from. Likewise, the worker had not commenced his shift for the day by clocking on.
The decision at trial
Senior Member Jack began by noting that while the Act specifically defines ‘place of residence’, no such statutory definition exists for ‘place of employment’.
Thus, this dispute revolved primarily around the definition of the worker’s ‘place of employment’. Senior Member Jack discussed several decisions from multiple jurisdictions that were concerned with physical boundaries of the land owned or controlled by the employer (“boundary test”) before contrasting these with decisions relying on a definition according to where a worker’s employment is undertaken and his/her duties are performed. The ultimate outcome of each decision was considered to be factually reliant on a combination of these factors to define the worker’s ‘place of employment’.
Senior Member Jack concluded by finding the worker in this case had been employed to exclusively work in the manufacturing buildings and other buildings nearby which were all located within a designated perimeter fence. The only means of access to the area within this perimeter fence was through a gatehouse and the worker had not yet passed through the gatehouse, despite coming from the VIP car park nearby (being onsite in general of the employer’s legal boundary).
As such, the worker was found to have not yet passed into the area that he regularly undertook his work duties and had not physically entered his ‘place of employment’ as intended by s 25(6) of the Act.
Implications for you
This decision provides authority that analysis of a worker’s place of employment may not be restricted to the legally defined property boundaries where the employer regularly conducts business operations. Instead, the context of the employee’s duties and their role within the organisation may lend the employer some flexibility to argue where exactly the injury occurred. Employer car parks, which can be a common place for an injury to occur, should always be considered and investigated when dealing with these types of claims.