Our injury on duty scenario this week is about a female employee who works in the wholesale industry.
Three months ago she was asked by her employer to assist with deliveries in addition to her normal duties.
She was assigned the task of delivering bags of merchandise, weighing twenty kilogrammes each, to various retail outlets dotted around the city.
These bags are loaded onto a delivery vehicle at the company premises, from where she drives to the different retailers.
Once at the outlet, the bags are transferred onto a trolley and wheeled to the storage areas where it is offloaded again. The loading and offloading is usually done without any assistance.
On one of these deliveries, the employee unfortunately injured her back while lifting a bag.
Her employer immediately took her to the IOD Centre (in Port Elizabeth), where she was thoroughly examined and a case file opened. The injury was also reported to the compensation commissioner.
Initially she was treated conservatively with painkillers and a few sessions of physiotherapy. However, it later became clear that her injury was of a more serious nature and she was sent for X-rays and a number of scans.
These confirmed that the injury was serious and that it required surgery to fuse some of her vertebrae. She would be off work for up to six weeks, after which she would not be allowed to resume her delivery duties.
The commissioner was advised – by means of reports submitted by the IOD Centre – of the fact that her injury was more serious than initially thought.
A few days after our reader had undergone the surgery, she was advised that her claim had been repudiated (rejected) by the commissioner. The reason for the rejection was that she had not suffered any permanent disability and therefore compensation would not be paid out.
According to the provisions of Section 91 of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 61 of 1997, an objection was lodged and the case was referred back to the compensation fund for reconsideration. The outcome could go one of two ways.
When the commissioner reviews the medical progress reports again, he may come to the conclusion that our reader has in fact been permanently disabled by her injury. If so, the claim will be paid out.
If he sticks to his original decision, a hearing will be called where a presiding officer, two assessors and a medical assessor will be in attendance. Evidence to challenge the decision will be presented, including testimonies by our reader and her treating doctor or specialist.
She will testify to the circumstances surrounding the incident as well as how the injury has affected her day to day life. The orthopaedic surgeon will testify to the success of the operation and the degree of disability that may have resulted from the injury.
The panel will decide whether the objection is successful or not. If so, the matter will be referred back to the commissioner, who will determine the percentage permanent disability and the relevant compensation.
Send your labour and injury on duty questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Booysen & Rossouw Attorneys in Port Elizabeth specialises in labour related legislation, including injuries on duty. They also deal with other aspects of the law.
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