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Man Strains Back While Picking Up Keys to the Company Car, Seeks Compensation

A strange case of work-related injury has come to a rather unexpected end after more than a year. An Australian man will get compensation from his employer after he strained his back bending to pick up the keys to the company car.
The Ford Ranger used by Australian worker who strained his back while picking up the keys 1 photo
Getting a company car is often regarded as an extra perk of the job, but in Robert Thelan’s case, it was a necessity. Thelan works for SA Power Networks, which builds and maintains Australia’s electricity infrastructure, and on the day in question, he was on call at his home, ABCNews reports.

He got the call for a job to fix a power line and went out on his driveway, where the company’s Ford Ranger was parked. He got into the driver’s seat and, just as he was about to start off, accidentally dropped his keys on the ground. Staying in his seat, 90 centimeters (35.4 inches) above the ground, he bent down to retrieve the keys and ended up straining his back.

The report doesn’t make any mention of Thelan’s age or physical condition. It does note, though, that Thelan insisted his strained back was his employer’s concern and that he was due compensation. After the injury, he drove himself to the depot and reported the injury, and later checked himself into a hospital. In the following months, he missed work and incurred medical expenses, so he sought compensation from the company, which he was denied.

The case went to court, with one judge ruling in favor of the company that same year. Thelan argued that his work started the moment he got into his car to drive off to the intervention. However, the employer claimed that, when this particular incident happened, he wasn’t working – but merely undergoing preparatory activity for the actual work.

Thelan appealed the initial ruling, and Judge Crawley of the South Australian Employment Tribune ruled in his favor earlier this month. “I find that it is not a prerequisite to compensability that there be a real and substantial connection between the accident and the employment,” the final judgment reads.

The judge cited Thelan’s employment agreement, which stated he was getting paid when he began his journey to a job, for which he was to take a company vehicle. Since the injury occurred at the offset of this journey, it was a work-related injury for which he was due compensation.

 
 
 
 
 

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