When someone mentions a work injury we generally think of a physical injury, very rarely do we associate a work injury with a bite or sting – but what happens if your work accident is a bite or sting injury?
This is a very real threat for those who work in certain industries. Recently a pest control worker in New Zealand suffered a severe allergic reaction when a swarm of wasps descended on him, stinging him all over his body. Fortunately for this worker his company’s first aid kit was equipped with injectable adrenaline and his co-workers were trained in its use, ultimately saving his life.
So what are your rights if you suffer a bite or sting injury at work?
Australia is home to many of the world’s most venomous snakes, spiders and marine animals. Some of the more commonly encountered Australian creatures that are a cause for concern are animals such as; spiders, snakes, insects, ticks and marine creatures.
So how do we avoid these in the workplace?
Certain work environments have a greater risk of injury and illness due to the nature of the work being carried out and the nature of the hazards at the workplace. Those workers who are more susceptible to being bitten or stung due to the nature of their work, should be trained in first aid and be equipped with an adequate first aid kit.
First aid training for employees – especially those who are more at risk of sustaining a bite or sting injury while on the job – could mean the difference between life and death. These workers should also be equipped with a first aid kit including, among other things: a heavy duty crepe bandage for bites as well as sting relief cream, gel or spray.
Employees should be provided with, and wear, appropriate protective clothing and equipment to reduce the likelihood of sustaining a bite or sting while on the job. Employers should have appropriate emergency response procedures and guidelines in place. They should also ensure that their employees are trained in such procedures.
Further to this, employers should also have in place – and ensure employees are trained in – appropriate emergency response procedures. These procedures and guidelines should be followed by workers in the event that they, or a co-worker, suffer a bite or sting.
So what course of action do you have if you have been bitten or stung while at work?
Any injured employee (providing they are a “worker” and that the injury they have suffered arose out of, or in the course of their employment) is eligible to make a claim for compensation with WorkCover for their bite or sting injury. Compensation benefits can include the payment of any medical and rehabilitation expenses, travel expenses, and lost wages associated with the injury. To make an application for compensation with WorkCover Qld you can apply over the telephone, apply online, or post, upload, or fax your application directly to WorkCover.
Providing a worker has an accepted statutory claim for compensation with WorkCover Queensland, as set out above, they are entitled to bring a common law workers compensation claim for damages against their employer for negligence. For a common law claim against their employer to succeed, an injured employee will need to prove that their employer failed in their duty to provide them, as far as it was reasonably practical, with a safe and healthy working environment and as a result, they sustained an injury.
So what is a safe and healthy working environment?
A safe working environment comprises of the allocation of reasonable and appropriate work duties, and ensuring that all necessary machinery and safety equipment is provided and in a good state of repair. Furthermore, the employer must ensure that adequate training and instruction has been provided to employees and that they understand these procedures.
Any failure to do this by an employer may mean that they are liable in negligence to an injured employee. However, with respect to the injury itself, a degree of permanent damage and/or ongoing effects will need to be present for the claim to be worthwhile pursuing. Fortunately, most bites and stings are not serious, and for those that are, there are usually effective treatments available to treat these injuries.
Advice for employers
While most bite and sting injuries are not a real cause for concern, some can be quite dangerous and even life threatening. Employers, particularly those in industries whose employees are more susceptible to suffering bites and stings, should take the necessary precautions to reduce the likelihood of such an injury occurring. If they fail in this duty they may be liable to the injured person in negligence and find themselves defending a common law claim.
Advice for employees
An injured employee must keep in mind that a degree of permanent damage and/or ongoing effects resultant of the bite or sting injury would need to be present for the claim to be worthwhile pursuing. The lack of permanent damage or ongoing effects does not however prevent the injured employee from lodging a claim for compensation with WorkCover Queensland for any lost wages, medical/rehabilitation expenses or travel expenses they may have incurred at the time they suffered the injury.
Workers must also remember that they too have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety. This includes complying with any reasonable instruction and cooperating with any reasonable policy or procedure relating to health and safety in the workplace. Although accidents do happen and not all injuries can be prevented, both employers and employees must do their part in assisting in prevention.