Preventing accidents and occupational diseases at your workplace
As an employer, it is not only in your best interest to maintain a healthy and safe workplace and to prevent workplace injuries and occupational diseases, it is also your legal obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
How the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) defines “accident”
According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA), accidents include:
- a chance event caused by a physical or natural incident, i.e., falling off a ladder or frostbite
- a wilful and intentional act, but not an act of the worker, i.e., being assaulted by a co-worker
- a disablement, which may be a condition that
- has emerged gradually over time, and cannot be attributed to a clearly defined time or place, i.e., carpal tunnel syndrome, or
- is an “unexpected result” of the worker’s duties, wherein an accident that was originally believed to be minor resulted in disablement at a later date, i.e., a back injury from bending over to pick up equipment.
While the first two types of accidents are often clearly understood and, in many cases, are accepted without dispute, disablement claims tend to generate significant discussion and investigation, and are much more difficult to adjudicate. For that reason, the WSIB has an Adjudicative Advice document on “Initial Entitlement (Disablement)” which discusses the “causation test” that must be met in such cases. That document, which is available on the WSIB’s website, also states, in part, that
It is important to note that the presumption clause does not apply when assessing disablement claims. The worker has the burden of showing that the disablement arose out of and in the course of employment. It remains the responsibility of the decision-maker to conduct the investigations and obtain necessary evidence. This means that when determining entitlement, confirmation that the work activity ‘contributed to the onset of the injury/disability’ is required.
The information that you, as the employer, can provide to the WSIB with respect to the work activities performed is important in the decision-making process. Please contact the Office of the Employer Adviser (OEA) for assistance if you have such a claim.
How the WSIB defines “occupational disease”
An occupational disease includes:
- a disease resulting from exposure to a substance that is related to a particular industrial process, trade or occupation, i.e., developing asthma from working in a bakery
- a disease peculiar to, or characteristic of, a particular industrial process, trade or occupation, i.e., the development of lead toxicity is not a disease, but is a precursor that can lead to severe damage of the central nervous system and is compensable prior to developing the disease
- a medical condition that, in the WSIB’s opinion, requires a worker to be removed either temporarily or permanently from exposure to a substance because the condition may be a precursor to an occupational disease
- a disease mentioned in Schedule 3 or 4 of O. Reg. 175/98, or
- a disease listed in the WSIA, applicable to firefighters and fire investigators
A worker who suffers from, and is impaired by, an occupational disease is entitled to receive benefits under the WSIA as if the disease were a personal injury by accident.
When you need to report an accident or an occupational disease
Employers must report accidents or occupational diseases to the WSIB by completing the “Employer’s Report of Injury/Disease” Form 0007A (Form 7) when an injury or disease causes a worker to
- obtain health care
- be absent from his/her regular work beyond the date of accident
- require modified duties at less than regular pay
- earn less than regular pay at regular work, or
- require modified work at regular pay for more than seven calendar days
How to determine the date of accident for a disablement claim
In a gradual onset disablement claim, the date of injury is the earlier of the date medical attention is first sought which led to the diagnosis, or to the date of diagnosis. This impacts the employer’s obligation to re-employ the injured worker and to contribute towards the worker’s employment benefits.