Mark Stockwell worked in the Ambulance Service of NSW as a front line Ambulance Officer and was subject to the Operational Ambulance Officers (State) Award 2006. In the course of his employment he suffered back injuries which in 2001 resulted in him being transferred to work as an Operations Centre Officer. In January 2007, he suffered a psychological injury causing him to resign in August 2007.
In 2008 the Workers Compensation Commission made an award in favour of Mr Stockwell for the ongoing payment of weekly compensation benefits as a result of the psychological injury.
In March 2013 the insurer issued a notice pursuant to Section 54 that they had undertaken a Work Capacity Decision (WCD) and determined that he was no longer entitled to receive weekly compensation payments. At this point it should be noted that the 2012 amendments related to WCD do not apply to or in respect of an injury received by a Police Officer, Paramedic or Fire Fighter.
Under the 2006 Award, Mr Stockwell was classified as an Ambulance Officer Grade 2 which the 2008 Award then amended that classification to be called a Paramedic. On commencement at the Call Centre he continued to retain the same grade as a Grade 2 Officer, although titled Ambulance Operations Centre Officer. The argument of the insurer was that Mr Stockwell was not performing the duties of a paramedic at the time of the 2007 injury, and therefore did not fit within the exemptions to the 2012 amendments, and therefore was able to be subjected to a WCD.
The dispute went before an Arbitrator in July 2014 who found that the worker was a “Paramedic” and, accordingly, the 2012 amendments did not apply. Therefore, Mr Stockwell was exempt from the WCD provisions and entitled to ongoing benefits.
The State lodged an appeal to the Presidential Member on the basis that Mr Stockwell was not a front line Ambulance Officer, and did not perform his duties in the presence of high danger or peril. Alternatively they argued that Mr Stockwell was not qualified to carry out the duties of a Paramedic as he had not renewed his qualifications since 2004 and therefore, if otherwise fit apart from his back injury, could not perform the duties of a Paramedic.
On closer examination of the employer’s records it was found that Mr Stockwell had been certified until 31 December 2006, one month prior to the injury, and that it was the employer’s responsibility to arrange and insist upon re-certification. The employer had not done so. It was also found that it was not uncommon for the Department to not promptly arrange re-certification, and that no Paramedic had been pulled off the road if their certification had lapsed under such circumstances.
The State appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal which handed down its decision on 1 March 2017 finding that the fact that the injury was sustained when not performing active duties as a Paramedic was irrelevant.
The Court of Appeal found no error in law in the decision that Mr Stockwell was a “Paramedic” and hence exempt from application of the 2012 amendments to the Workers Compensation Act.