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Injuries sustained whilst working from home

  • Newsletter Article
  • Published 17.11.2022

Knight v State of New South Wales (Western NSW Local Health District) (NSWPIC 2022)

Link to Decision

Key Takeaways

The Personal Injury Commission (PIC) continues to take a broad approach to ss4 & 9A of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (the 1987 Act) for injuries sustained whilst working from home.

Brief Facts

The applicant worker in this matter was employed as a case worker, a role that required her to be constantly on the phone and take video calls.

On the day of the injury, the applicant was working from home and was looking after her daughter’s puppy. The puppy was tied up outside of her home so that he did not disturb her calls. Shortly after completing a work call, the applicant heard the puppy crying outside. The applicant went to investigate, and discovered that the puppy was being attacked by a cattle dog. The worker intervened and attempted to rescue the puppy and in doing so, she was attacked by the cattle dog and sustained physical and psychological injuries.

The applicant made a claim for workers compensation, which was denied by the insurer on the following grounds:

  • the injury was not sustained in the course of employment or did not arise out of employment pursuant to s4 of the 1987 Act, and
  • employment was not a substantial contributing factor to the injury pursuant to s9A of the 1987 Act

The applicant challenged the dispute in the PIC.


The matter came before Member Rachel Homan who accepted that the injury arose out of the course of employment pursuant to s4 of the 1987 Act. In reaching this decision, Member Homan considered the relevant authorities and accepted that in the ‘course of employment’ was a temporal concept.

That is, any injury sustained while the worker was engaged in work which she was employed to do or something incidental to work would be considered in the course of employment.

There was no dispute on the facts of the case that the applicant was undertaking authorised work duties from home at the time of the injury. The Member found that the worker did not take herself out of the course of employment by intervening in the dog attack. She stated:

Furthermore, the dog attack commenced while the applicant was in the performance of her actual work duties. Although she ceased performing those duties to investigate and then intervene in the attack, as was the case in Smith, I am satisfied that this was a reasonable and practical necessity and consistent with what her employer would have reasonably expected of her in the circumstances. I do not accept that the employer would have expected the applicant to disregard the distress of the puppy and continue on with her work. I am not satisfied that this conduct took the applicant outside the ordinary course of her employment.

The Member also accepted that employment was a substantial contributing factor to the injury pursuant to s9A. The Member referred to the nature of the applicant’s duties and noted that she was ‘constantly’ required to take phone and video calls. In this context, the Member accepted ‘that the applicant’s employer expected her to perform these duties in a professional manner and in an environment within the home that was sufficiently quiet and amenable to her being able to concentrate.’ Accordingly the Member found that employment was a substantial contributing factor to the injury as the puppy would not have been tied up outside, making it susceptible to the dog attack, if it wasn’t to facilitate the required work environment for the applicant to complete her duties.


With today’s workforce more regularly and consistently working from home, there is a clear blurring of the lines of what is considered to be in the course of employment. This case highlights the liberal approach adopted by the Commission in the application of ss4 and 9A for injuries sustained whilst working from home.