A worker has been awarded compensation after he strained his back picking up company car keys. 

SA Power Networks employee Robert Thelan was sitting in his driveway, in his work ute, when the incident occurred. He had been called out to a job on a powerline, but accidentally dropped the keys to the company Ford Ranger onto the driveway, according to the judgment of Judge Miles Crawley.

He leaned out from his seat and attempted to reach the keys located about 90-centimetres below him. He strained his back in the attempt. 

He managed to drive himself to the Port Pirie SA Power Networks depot and report the injury before being taken to hospital.

The injury left Mr Thelan unable to work and dealing with medical expenses, but SA Power Networks rejected his compensation claim.

The company claimed the injury “did not arise from employment and employment was not a significant contributing cause of the injury”. It said Mr Thelan was injured “undertaking activity preparatory to undertaking duties of employment”. 

However, he disputed that claim, arguing that he was in fact carrying out his duties of employment at the time of the injury. Under the terms of his employment, Mr Thelan began receiving pay at the start of his journey to a job. 

An earlier judgment had found that there needed to be a “real and substantial connection between the employment and the accident” as well as “a real and substantial connection between the employment and the journey” for compensation to be awarded. 

In recent days, Judge Crawley found that “it is not a prerequisite to compensability that there be a real and substantial connection between the accident and the employment”. 

The exact amount of compensation is still to be determined.