The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2021 (Qld) passed on 20 May 2021. The amendment introduces a presumption for certain workers diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by a psychiatrist under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to have an injury, if they are defined as first responders or other eligible employees prescribed in the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Regulation 2014:

Traditional first responders are those who respond to life-threatening, otherwise traumatic incidents, where time may be critical to prevent actual or potential death or injury to persons or to prevent or minimise damage to property or the environment.

The occupations or professions captured are:

  • A police officer or police recruit under the Police Service Administration Act 1990;
  • An ambulance officer under the Ambulance Service Act 1991;
  • An authorised officer under the Child Protection Act 1999;
  • A corrective services officer under the Corrective Services Act 2006;
  • A youth justice staff member under the Youth Justice Act 1992;
  • A fire service officer, member of the State Emergency Service, member of the rural fire brigade, volunteer firefighter or volunteer fire warden under the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990; and
  • A doctor or nurse employed in any of the following areas—(i) emergency and trauma care; (ii) acute care; (iii) critical care; (iv) high-dependency care.

Eligible employees in certain first responder departments whose employment requires them to experience repeated or extreme exposure to graphic details of traumatic incidents as they attend the scene of traumatic incidents (e.g. a person whose employment involves collecting human remains) or experience the traumatic incident as they happen (e.g. fire communications officers responding to and providing information in response to emergencies, or corrective services officers observing disturbing footage via CCTV) or investigate, review or assess traumatic incidents that have happened to other persons (e.g. workers who are exposed to graphic details as part of investigating complaints of child sexual abuse).

The presumption can still be rebutted if it is established the injury did not arise out of or in the course of their employment, or the employment is not a significant contributing factor.

The exception of ‘reasonable management action’ under s.32(5) is excluded because PTSD requires exposure to specific traumatic events.

David Cormack

Brisbane Barrister & Mediator

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