For some time now our members have been querying the need for company medicals, when they are legally required to have AMSA medicals. A similar scenario has been raised in a case involving a Queensland miner.

In the Queensland Court of Appeal, Justice Margaret McMurdo (with Justices Hugh Fraser and Margaret White agreeing) has reinstated a coal mineworker who failed a medical assessment after a doctor deemed he was permanently unfit for work due to a "significant and foreseeable risk of sudden incapacity", based solely on his statistical analysis of the worker's unhealthy BMI. The doctor concluded that the operator posed a serious risk to both himself and his colleagues, despite the fact that at the time he didn't have any physical restrictions that impaired his ability to perform work.

The court heard that the doctor never met with the employee, and based his findings solely on a physical examination carried out by the employee's physician that noted the employee's height, weight (153 kg) and neck circumference (52 cm), which indicated an unhealthy BMI.

Justice McMurdo found that the doctor had failed to carry out the employee's health assessment in accordance with Queensland's coal mining safety legislation.

"The Act and the Regulation are not concerned with the impossible task of avoiding all risk of injury but with keeping risk to an acceptable level. The [medical assessment] form does that by concerning itself with present restrictions which could make the [operator] unfit to undertake his current position, including restrictions which would create an unacceptable level of risk," Justice McMurdo said.

The Curragh coal mine, owned by Wesfarmers Limited, dismissed the operator after he failed a mandatory fitness assessment in March last year. Justice McMurdo allowed the appeal, set aside the doctor's decision, and ordered that the doctor pay the employee's costs for both the appeal and the original hearing. [MBR v Parker [2012] QCA 271 (5 October 2012)]