Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disease within Australia.

The incidence of this condition continues to increase due to an ageing population, poor lifestyle choices and the general sedentary nature of the workforce to day. Among men, cardiovascular disease in particular is the leading cause of preventable disease in Australia.

What is a cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease is a collective term which includes diseases such as:

  • coronary heart disease,
  • heart failure,
  • cardiomyopathy,
  • congenital heart disease,
  • peripheral vascular disease and stroke.

Can you claim workers compensation if you suffered a heart attack at work?

Unfortunately, many of these conditions are life-threatening. Given the number of heart attacks or cardiovascular disease incidents which can occur while you work, it is often asked as to whether an individual can claim workers compensation on behalf of their deceased spouse who died as a result of a heart attack at work or in the alternative, a worker who fortunately survived a heart attack at work but can no longer return to work.

Establishing the nature of employment

In 2012, the Workers Compensation Act 1987 was amended to provide that pursuant to S9b of the act No compensation is payable under this Act in respect of an injury that consists of, is caused by, results in or is associated with a heart attack injury or stroke injury unless the nature of the employment concerned gave rise to a significantly greater risk of the worker suffering the injury than had the worker not been employed in employment of that nature.

On face value, the test of establishing that the nature of employment gives rise to a significantly greater risk seems to be a difficult evidentiary threshold to satisfy. This section of the act was not tested until the case of Harida De Silva v Department of Finance and Services (2015) NSWWCC 279. This case provides a guiding interpretation of S9b. The facts of the case discuss the sad passing of Mr Fernando while conducting at two-day site visit at Ballina as part of his employment with NSW Department of Finance & Services. He unfortunately passed away from a cardiac arrest in his motel room during the two-day stay.

Senior Arbitrator Snell in deciding the case indicated that S9b and the phrase nature of employment, does not merely refer to the stressful nature of the work, increased hours or risk presented by the job. The phrase also encompasses a reference to the particular employment in which the injury was suffered. On this basis, Senior Arbitrator Snell determined that the risk of dying encountered by Mr Fernando while away for work was significantly greater than if he had been at home. On this basis, of this significantly greater risk of the worker suffering the injury (cardiac arrest and death), a finding in favour of the deceased’s spouse was made.

On the basis of this finding and given the dependence of the spouse upon the deceased, she was found to be entitled to payment of Mr Fernandos statutory lump sum death benefit.

Get in touch with us

At Turner Freeman Lawyers, we specialise in Worker’s Compensation claims. If you or someone you know has been injured and you are unsure of their entitlements, we encourage you to call 13 43 63 to speak with one of our Personal Injury Specialists today. Our NSW offices are based in Sydney, Parramatta, Campbelltown, Newcastle, Penrith and Wollongong.