Bug Bites at a Call Centre
Date: November 5, 2018
Carlson and Telstra Corporation Limited  AATA 3359.
- The Tribunal was required to consider whether a Telstra employee suffered an allergic condition as a result of insect bites sustained while working at a call centre in Queensland.
- The Tribunal found in favour of the employer.
On 15 December 2016, Ms Carlson submitted a claim in respect of “allergic vasculitis”, affecting her arms and legs. Ms Carlson claimed that the vasculitis was caused by insect bites sustained while working at the Call Centre.
For liability to exist for the vasculitis, the Tribunal must be satisfied that the condition was contributed to, to a significant degree, by Ms Carlson’s employment with Telstra.
Both parties agreed that Ms Carlson suffered from vasculitis. The issue in dispute was what caused this condition. Ms Carlson alleged that her condition arose because she was bitten by midges, or some other biting insect, while at work. Evidence was presented that established that the workplace did have a problem with pests including weevils, black ants and cigarette beetles, but no witness argued that these could cause vasculitis.
Ms Carlson argued that midges were present in the Maryborough area, she was bitten while at work and those bites caused her to suffer vasculitis.
The Tribunal was not satisfied that Ms Carlson was bitten by midges while she was at work. The medical evidence did not verify that she had been bitten by any midges and the Tribunal held that even if she had been bitten, the bites could have happened while she was at home, or on a break from work.
Even if the Tribunal had found that Ms Carlson was bitten at work, the Tribunal concluded that the medical evidence did not support a finding that a midge bite caused Ms Carlson’s vasculitis.
The Tribunal noted that Ms Carlson’s report of insect bites and the onset of her vasculitis may have coincided, however, there was no medical evidence or scientific medical support to suggest that an insect bite could have led to the prolonged vasculitis that Ms Carlson suffered from.
The Tribunal found that Ms Carlson’s ailment was not an injury for the purposes of the SRC Act and Ms Carlson was not entitled to compensation for her claim.
The possibility that something “may” have been a cause of a medical condition is not a sufficient basis for attributing legal responsibility. There must be medical evidence or scientific support that indicates more of a causal connection between the two, for legal responsibility to exist.
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