There are particular industries where most of the on-field work takes place in remote areas. Mining and oil fields are two common examples of such enterprises. To ensure the proper functioning of the business activity, employers use a form of employment known as a fly-in, fly-out. The firm flies required personnel to the remote operation site for a pre-agreed period in the employment form. After the period, the company arranges for their return. It ensures they get adequate rest in the comfort of their homes.
Companies choose this method over relocating personnel and their families to the operation site as the former is less expensive. Such affordability is derived from having to foot the bill for just basic accommodation for brief periods and, of course, the flight expenses. It is cheaper than it sounds and is particularly effective when permanent settlements do not accompany the worksite.
While on a FIFO trip, employees need to spend most of the day working, and not only that, they won’t have off days till the predetermined work period comes to an end. That also means that on-site amenities available to such a FIFO worker will be severely limited and restricted. FIFO trips will provide employees with only basic facilities to relax and amuse themselves.
Other things that work against FIFO working arrangements are the considerable stress they place on familial relationships. It also affects the development of regions. Again, many experts don’t fail to point out that the significant amount of involved flying significantly increases carbon footprints.
The federal US Government has OSHO (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to regulate compensation for FIFO workers’ injuries. However, you get a deeper understanding of the principles involved in such cases and the jurisprudence viewpoint from the following case, which happened in Australia.
A FIFO worker was on duty at South Australia’s Prominent Hill mine. The mine is located near Coober Pedy in the northern part of the south of Australia. The person had a work schedule of seven days being on duty and the other seven days being his off time. A cabin located in a particular accommodation village owned by the employer served as his resting place. The employer had strict rules for workers accommodated in the town, and the specific person duly complied with the same.
In March 2016, duty set the employee to leave his cabin to proceed to the mess and start normal work functions. It so happened that the crib bag he was carrying with himself got tangled with the door handle resulting in the keys and pens spilling into the floor. As he kneeled to pick them, there was a pop in his knee that continuously began to swell.
The employee filed for workers’ compensation which the insurance company accepted. However, the employer raised a dispute because the injury was sustained while on duty or in employment. The employer proceeded to initiate legal action, and the case was eventually forwarded to a tribunal.
According to the tribunal’s ruling, the employee’s injury took place at a time that is better described as an interval between the employer’s shifts. They opined that the need for living in remote locations for working constituted a part of his employment. Further, they observed:
- The injury took place in an accommodation designated by the employer itself for the worker.
- The physical damage took place during the entire process of going to work.
Accordingly, the ruling was that these activities were intermingled enough with his employment activities to consider the injury to have taken place resulting from his employment or related activities.
In a precedent-setting ruling, the tribunal found that the term “employment” comes with a broad denotation. It can indeed include work aspects that need not be strictly work-related in the phrase’s strictest dictionary meanings. The tribunal found that the worker’s mine duties were closely related. Still, he was there in the village accommodation due to the combination of the following factors.
- The employer made it mandatory for him to stay there.
- The employer enforced accommodations rules framed by the organization.
- The company explicitly meant the village accommodation for FIFO employees.
This article tries to point out all this information that it didn’t matter whether the employee’s location was at the worksite at the time of the injury and that it took place before work shifts. The nature of the job accommodation and the requirements for the same constitutes a work-related injury. The employee must get due compensation.
With FIFO working terms gaining popularity in the various parts of the world, including Australia, this case bears special significance. It is an appropriate precedent that champions the rights and needs of workers. The last thing to mention is that FIFO cases are often tricky, and professional help might often be your best bet.