Claim rejected for worker who had pain when turning neck at work
A claim for workers’ compensation by a worker whose position involved turning his head from one computer screen to another, making notes and dealing with phone calls, has been rejected by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Mr Hook was employed by the Department of Human Services (“DHS”) in a Child Support Smart Centre in Brisbane and had been employed since 9 February 2009.
In the course of his work he had to look at more than one computer screen which involved turning his head from one computer screen to another, making notes and dealing with phone calls. On 13 August 2018 he said that he was completing a phone call with a customer and turned his head to the left in order to make notes on a notepad on his desk. He felt pain in his upper arm and neck after turning his head. He was seen by the first-aid officer and taken off manning phones for a couple of hours and then went home on sick leave. On 28 August 2018 he submitted a claim for workers’ compensation for an “injured neck/shoulder and left arm”.
The Disputed Issue
- What was the proper diagnosis of the condition?
- Had the worker suffered an injury/disease, or aggravation of an injury/disease?
- If so, was that contributed to (to a significant degree) by his employment?
- The work tasks did not cause the underlying condition and that the neck and left arm pain was due to an aggravation of the pre-existing condition.
- The simple act of turning the head to the left would not ordinarily be expected to lead to the worker’s spine pain without a degree of the pre-existing condition.
- Turning the head as the worker described would not be expected to lead to an injury such as a disc extrusion.
“In the present case the [worker] was in the unfortunate position of having degenerative changes caused by age which over a period of time resulted in a disc bulge/prolapse. That was not employment related. It was present prior to the event at work on 13 August 2018. The symptoms occurred at work when the [worker] turned his head in a normal movement but the extent of work-related involvement was purely temporal. He did not suffer an injury. He suffered from an age-related disease. The disease was not contributed to, to a significant degree, by his employment.”
Issues for Employers
* Hook and Comcare (Compensation)  AATA 1792 (17 June 2020)