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Can you trust a carpal tunnel compensation claim?

A former Australia Post employee has won a workers’ compensation claim for carpal tunnel syndrome, following an Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) hearing.

The mail officer made the claim for pain she had been suffering with since April 2016.

Her fast and repetitive work required her to continuously grab bundles of mail up to 3 inches thick and load them into a coding machine. She also had to type into a numeric keypad using her same right hand.

Australia Post denied liability for the injury, stating that the condition could not have been brought on due to the nature of her work and would have occurred anyway, irrespective of her work at the company.

AAT Senior Member Dr Damien Cremean rejected this “frequently encountered” analysis, which had been submitted by one of Australia Post’s medical advisers, and said he preferred the views of another surgeon submitting evidence for the employee.

The surgeon, who had operated on carpal tunnel syndrome patients two or three times a week for more than 20 years, did agree that the condition could “have happened in any event”, but believed that it was the worker’s employment which “brought it to a head”.

Senior Member Cremean said that even though “medical opinion is divided on the actual science”, he was “unable to identify any other factor in her life which could have produced her CTS”, noting that the worker was “not obese or middle aged or menopausal”.

“This means to my mind only her employment is implicated causationally.

“Therefore, I consider her condition was contributed to, to a significant extent, by her employment.

“[The employee’s] highly repetitive work done at a fast pace especially on the coding machine either initiated her CTS as an ailment or more likely made it worse and was an aggravation of an ailment,” he said.

The worker was awarded weekly compensation payments for her incapacity to work, as well as costs for all medical and related expenses.

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