Aurizon worker's fight for PTSD and bullying compensation
A FORMER Central Queensland railway worker has been left battling post traumatic stress disorder after attending eight fatal crash scenes across the state.
The man, who this newspaper has chosen not to name due to his mental health issues, claims he was also bullied in the workplace by two colleagues and was rejected multiple times for workers' compensation starting in May 2016.
He is now seeking damages to cover his medical expenses and loss of income after being denied assistance from former employer Aurizon and the Workers' Compensation Regulator. Documents filed with the Supreme Court in Rockhampton on June 10 outline the long process the 35-year-old has gone through so far in seeking compensation.
The matter is before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission in an appeal process regarding his two claims for the rail incidents causing PTSD and over the alleged bullying, both which have been denied by Aurizon.
Documents state the applicant - a father of two - was previously employed by Aurizon in roles including operations manager, acting train service manager and service delivery manager but had not worked since August 2015.
The affidavit states he attended several serious incidents including a fatality at a level crossing at Rosella on March 26 in 2010; a fatality at Farleigh in August in 2011 involving a freight train and a tractor driver; collisions between vehicles and trains in Farleigh and Rockhampton in 2012, a collision between a train and a fuel tanker near Mackay Harbour in 2012, and fatalities at train platforms in Townsville and Brisbane in 2013 and 2014.
He stated: "I was distraught at the thought of attending and unable to get out of my car at the scene" in reference to the last fatality to which he was called.
The affidavit states the man sought help from his general practitioner following the second fatal accident he attended due to the intrusive memories of the tragedy.
Then, after returning from paternity leave in April 2015, the man claims he was subjected to bullying by two colleagues.
"Before 2015 I had been managing to work although had been unable to contemplate attending any more fatalities and did not feel that it was right for my employer to continue expecting me to attend the scenes of fatalities because I did not have any training to deal with such events," the man said. "Due to the bullying my mental health deteriorated."
Over the past few years, the man has seen many health professionals for diagnoses and treatments - some off his own back and others at the request of Aurizon.
The man's solicitor, Margaret Esdale from Chris Trevor Associates in Gladstone, lodged an application in June this year with the Supreme Court in an attempt to address issues preventing the matter moving forward faster in the QIRC appeals process.
The documents state this action was taken upon advice of the man's psychiatrist about delays having a detrimental impact on his health.
The compensation claims have been denied by Aurizon who say there is a lack of documentation proving the applicant attended the crashes set out in the Damages Claim.
Aurizon described the application before the Supreme Court in June as, in simple terms, requesting the court to "fix the date of the applicant's first medical appointment for PTSD".
The rail company argued that the only information before the court to prove what the applicant claimed was the date that came from the applicant himself. Aurizon said it was hearsay and conflicted with "some significant degree" with the doctor's entries about the consultation.
Justice Graeme Crow dismissed the application after a directions hearing on June 14.
The documents filed in court indicate all of the mental health professionals concluded the man's mental health issues were from attending the fatalities and bullying.
He has also been admitted to hospital several times due to poor mental health.
On in May 2016, the man's application for workers' compensation for his mental health issues was rejected by Aurizon due to the outcome of an internal investigation by Aurizon, and then the Workers' Compensation Regulator upheld Aurizon's decision. The matter is now the subject of an appeal in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.
In August 2016, the man's former lawyers served an urgent Notice of Claim for Damages but Aurizon decided PTSD was not a compensable injury because the man could not substantiate that he had attended the level crossing fatalities and incidents due to a lack of documents.
The man appealed the decision through the Workers' Compensation Regulator who determined in December last year that he had suffered PTSD in the course of his employment with Aurizon and that his employment was a major significant contributing factor.
Appeals were filed with the QIRC in 2017 and last year in relation to rejection of both the bullying claim and the rail incidents claim and the appeals have suffered delays since.
Aurizon argued that as there was no complaint the applicant would not receive a fair hearing with the QIRC, that there was no admissible medical report making the PTSD diagnosis available to the court for the recent application, there was no admissible expert evidence linking PTSD with the events at work and there was no admissible evidence to define the period PTSD was suffered.
WCR argued the Supreme Court was not the appropriate venue to sort out these issues as per the legislation which named QIRC as the correct avenue. A spokesperson for QIRC said "as these matters are before the QIRC, comment would be inappropriate".