Considering workers’ injury cover for FIFO workers

An unintended consequence of the recent boom in Fly-in, Fly-out (FIFO) workforces attached to remote and regional mining and construction sites is confusion over the level of workers' compensation required to ensure compliance.

Whether workers FIFO, Drive-in Drive-Out (DIDO) or Bus-in Bus-Out (BIBO), the challenging question for some employers is 'are my workers covered for an injury sustained while on-site, even if they are not actually working?'

Under the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (The Act) for a workers' compensation claim to be accepted, the injured party needs to be deemed a 'worker'. The worker must have suffered a personal injury that has arisen out of, or in the course of their employment (with employment being a significant contributing factor).

Who is a worker?

In 2013, the definition of a worker changed to align with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) definition. This also changed employers' requirements for who they need to cover for workers' compensation.

A person who works under a 'contract of service' is a worker. A 'contract of service' is a standard employer and employee relationship where PAYG tax instalments are required to be withheld by their employer. Even where an individual contractor has their own Australian Business Number (ABN), if they are engaged for work, they may be considered a worker under the Act.

The ATO has guidelines on its website and an online tool for determining employee/contractor status.

When are FIFO, DIDO and BIBO workers covered?

As a general rule, if a worker is performing their duties and employment is a significant contributing factor to their injury, they will most likely be covered by WorkCover. There are some exclusions to this such as serious and wilful misconduct.

For workers based in a camp situation on-site there is further coverage.  If an employer encourages an activity and the worker sustains an injury from this activity, they may be covered for a WorkCover claim.  For example, if a mine site has a football team, the employer encourages their workers to play and provides a uniform. In this situation the workers will be covered by WorkCover.

However, there are some important exceptions where cover would not be provided, such as:

  • playing sport / going to the gym in your own time with no encouragement from the employer;
  • activity of your own volition including going to the pub, going for a personal drive off-site, going out for food off-site etc; and
  • an injury sustained while doing an activity that is not work related e.g. going for a smoke after work hours.

Journey claims

If you are injured on a journey between your home and place of employment, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. This may include:

  • an injury while on a journey between your home or workplace and a place of trade or training, which you were required to do as part of your work;
  • an existing WorkCover claim, which required you to go from your home or workplace to a place for medical or rehabilitation treatment, when you experienced an accident that caused further injury; or
  • travelling between employment with one employer and employment with another employer.

Journey claims are recorded separately to workplace injury claims and do not impact on the employer's premium.

For FIFO, DIDO and BIBO workers, their workplace is the mine or construction site including the living quarters. Their journey extends from when they leave their home (place of residence) until they reach their place of employment.

In some instances the worker's place of employment may start during their actual journey. The worker would be covered for a journey claim while they are on a commercial flight/s to their place of employment. However, if more than one flight is required and one of those flights is an organised charter flight with time of departure set by the company, the worker would be considered to be in the course of employment when the charter flight begins.

The Act also states that the worker needs to have started the journey without any significant delays or deviations. If the only 'substantial' deviation or interruption in a journey is to take a rest break in accordance with an employer fatigue management policy or under a health and safety management system, a worker will be covered. Providing the journey otherwise falls within the provisions of the Act, the rest break will not be considered a substantial deviation or interruption in the journey and the worker will be covered. If an injury occurs within your home or the boundary of your home, you have not begun your journey and therefore will not be entitled to compensation.

Claim examples

What may be acceptedWhat may not be accepted
Driving to the airport from your house to catch a plane to work.  As long as you do not have any significant delays or deviations, nor break any road traffic rules.You personally decide to go to the pub for a meal and you have an accident either on your way to the pub, at the pub or on your way back to camp.
Driving from camp to home. As long as you do not have any significant delays or deviations, nor break any road traffic rules.Being involved in a fight with a work colleague.
Playing in an employer-organised football game on the camp site after work and your employer encouraged you to play.Injuring yourself as a result of ignoring the safety training and instruction that you have been given.
Being tired and delaying your trip home to the following day so you can have a sleep in your donga, as per your employer's recommendation.Having a smoke after work and burning yourself on the lighter/cigarette.

Where can I get more information?

You can read more about who you should cover for workers' compensation on our website, or if you would like to discuss your particular situation call WorkCover on 1300 362 128.

Last updated
25 January 2017