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The pandemic served as a timely reminder of the bravery and selflessness of first responders and other emergency workers.
A 2018 report by Beyond Blue revealed that a third of current emergency service workers have high or very high psychological distress, and a quarter of ex-first responders have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recent amendments to Queensland’s workers’ compensation scheme will assist first responders and other emergency workers when making a workers’ compensation claim for PTSD.
On 12 May 2021, legislation was passed which amended the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (QLD) (“the Act”). These amendments included the insertion of subdivision 3BA, which provides for a separate pathway for lodging a workers’ compensation claim for first responder’s and other emergency workers whom have been diagnosed with PTSD.
The amendments alter previous requirements for workers’ to demonstrate that their PTSD condition is a work-related injury. PTSD will be presumed to be a work-related injury in circumstances in which: –
1. A diagnosis of PTSD has been made by a psychiatrist; and
2. The worker was employed at any time before diagnosis as a “first responder” or “eligible employee”.
The new provisions therefore reverse the onus of proof, with first responder’s or eligible employee’s PTSD condition presumed to be related to their employment, unless there is evidence to the contrary.
Historically, workers’ have faced difficulties when attempting to have their psychological injury accepted as a work-related injury, so the adoption of a presumptive model for first responders and emergency workers is a welcome change.
Per s 36EB of the Act, a person is considered a first responder if they are a worker, or a relevant volunteer, employed in an occupation or profession prescribed by the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Regulation 2014 (‘the Regulation’), namely: –
a. Ambulance officers;
b. Child Protection officers (authorised officers);
c. Corrective Service officers;
d. Fire Service officers;
e. Members of the SES or an emergency service unit;
f. Members of a rural fire brigade;
g. Firefighters or volunteer fire warden;
h. Police Officers and recruits;
i. Youth Justice staff members;
j. Doctors or nurses employed in areas such as emergency and trauma care; and
k. An private-sector profession that corresponds to a profession listed above.
There is an additional requirement that the person’s employment requires them to respond to incidents that are life-threatening or otherwise traumatic and for which time may be critical to prevent actual or potential death or injury to persons, or to prevent or minimise damage to property or the environment.
Eligible employees are those workers, or relevant volunteers, employed by one of the following State Government departments: –
a. Ambulance Services;
b. Child Protection Services;
c. Corrective Services;
d. Fire and Emergency Services;
e. Police Administration; and
f. Youth Justice.
Not all employees of these departments will meet the definition of an eligible employee, with the Act prescribing an additional requirement that the person’s employment requires them to experience repeated or extreme exposure to the graphic details of traumatic incidents, through: –
a. Attending the scenes of traumatic incidents;
b. Experiencing traumatic incidents as they happen to other persons; or
c. Investigating, reviewing, or assessing traumatic incidents that have happened to other persons.
If you require assistance in relation to a work injury, please do not hesitate to contact us.