Category Archives: Workers Compensation

Workers’ compensation “dangerously” underfunded: union

FREDERICTON — Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees New Brunswick (CUPE NB) held a protest for the rights of injured workers to denounce recent cuts to the workers’ compensation fund while the provincial legislature was reopening on October 24.
Earlier this year, WorkSafe NB announced its intention to increase the rates collected from employers to ensure sustainability of the workers’ compensation fund, but business interests lobbied against the measure, and WorkSafe NB’s board of directors buckled. On October 2, 2017, the board announced a meagre 22 cents hike per $100 of payroll. New Brunswick’s rate of $1.70 per $100 is amongst the lowest provincial rates in Canada.
“WorkSafe NB was created for people, not profits,” Daniel Légère, president of CUPE NB, charges in a statement issued on October 25. Légère adds that the province has yet to come back from the cuts made back in 1992.
“The CEO of WorkSafe NB is doing like McKenna: Underfunding the very system created to protect injured workers and their families,” Légère says. “This month, WorkSafe NB’s board of directors even admitted they are far from even meeting basic operating costs to manage the workers’ compensation fund. Simply maintaining the fund would have required an additional 23 cents increase ($1.93 per $100 of payroll).”
As long-term sustainability of the fund is in questioon, CUPE NB is worried that attrition, cuts and even privatization, might be on the horizon. “The public needs to know what is going on,” Légère adds.
According to the statement, CUPE and the Federation of Labour have communicated with the Labour Minister, recommending that funds to the workers’ compensation be restored at pre-1992 levels. This would enable the system to eliminate the three-day wait period for injured workers, increase benefits for injured and deceased workers and expedite the claims process by hiring more front-line staff at WorkSafe NB.

Task force to hold public meetings on state of N.B. workers’ comp system

FREDERICTON, N.B. – Following the release of a discussion paper from an independent task force, which the New Brunswick government had appointed to examine the province’s workers’ compensation system, the team has announced that it will hold public meetings in five cities next month to encourage general consultation. According to a news release that the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour sent out on Oct. 26, the paper analyzes the current state of WorkSafeNB and aims to guide discussion on its ability to address the needs of modern workplaces and injured workers. The meetings will take place in Grand Falls on Nov. 2, Fredericton on Nov. 3, Bathurst on Nov. 21, Moncton on Nov. 22 and Saint John on Nov. 23. Stakeholders, injured workers and the general public are invited to attend the sessions. “I encourage both employers and workers to read the discussion paper and attend the upcoming public sessions, or submit their feedback online or by mail,” task-force chair Dennis Browne said in a media statement, adding that the force had been gathering information for months. Feedback and comments will be accepted until Dec. 7. The discussion paper is accessible online at

Ontario government to fund review on effects of McIntyre Powder

Nearly 40 years after the Ontario mining sector ceased the practice of making workers inhale McIntyre Powder, the provincial government is planning to provide funding for a review of the powder’s long-term effects on miners’ health.

A news bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) stated on Oct. 11 that the province will provide a $1 million grant to the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), which is conducting the review. OHCOW will assemble a team of health professionals to research whether past exposure to McIntyre Powder is connected to health issues. A proven connection would allow ill former miners to claim compensation from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

A finely ground dust of aluminum oxide and aluminum, McIntyre Powder was once believed to prevent silicosis. From 1943 to around 1980, 45 Ontario mining companies exposed about 10,000 employees to the substance in a province-wide prevention program, according to information from the MOL. Today, OHCOW has 325 case files from current and former miners who were exposed to the powder, while another 195 have reported health effects to a voluntary registry run by the McIntyre Powder Project.

“In addition to this funding initiative, we have conducted a comprehensive mining safety review,” Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said in a press statement. “Implementation of its recommendations is well underway to further the health and safety of mine workers.

“It is critical that occupational diseases be treated with the same seriousness and importance as physical injuries,” added Flynn.

Marcelle Crouse, the province’s Acting Chief Prevention Officer, said in a statement that the grant would help to expand OHCOW’s capacity to address miners’ occupational illnesses.

“It is essential mine practices be safe and that controls are put in place to prevent dangerous exposure,” said Crouse. “We all have a shared responsibility to ensure workers are protected when they work in Ontario mines.”

McIntyre Powder Project founder Janice Martell thanked Flynn and his staff for working with her organization to research the health effects of the powder.

“This funding is critically important to enable the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers to process the large volume of information gathered from mine workers and their families by the McIntyre Powder Intake Clinics working group,” said Martell in a statement.

Martell founded the McIntyre Powder Project in 2015, after her father, Jim Hobbs, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease following years of exposure to the powder on the job. Hobbs died earlier this year in Elliot Lake, Ont. (COHSN, June 6).

There are currently about 40 underground mines and thousands of surface mines in Ontario, employing about 26,000 workers, according to the MOL.

Inspection blitz targeting musculoskeletal risks in mining sector

TORONTO, Ont. – The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) announced on Oct. 4 that it had already begun conducting an inspection blitz of mines and mining plants across the province, focusing on hazards that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). A news bulletin from the MOL stated that the blitz is running from Oct. 2 to Nov. 30 and aims to reduce the risks of MSD hazards and slips, trips, and falls. Among the tasks that can cause MSDs in miners are manual material handling and operating equipment that causes extreme hand-arm vibration, the Ministry noted. Awkward or sustained posture, repetitive motion and lifting, pushing or pulling heavy objects also cause occupational MSDs. “MSDs cause pain and suffering for thousands of workers every year and cost Ontario workplaces millions of dollars due to absenteeism and lost productivity,” Marcelle Crouse, the province’s acting chief prevention officer, said in a press statement. “Our goal is to protect workers on the job. We’re working together to build awareness of MSD hazards and prevent injuries.” MSDs are the most common type of time-loss injuries reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the bulletin added.

WSIB breached rights of injured Jamaican migrant worker: tribunal

Ontario’s workers’ compensation board violated the rights of a Jamaican migrant worker by slashing his benefits following a back injury, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal ruled during the last week of September.

In what the IAVGO Community Legal Clinic in Toronto called a “historic decision” in an Oct. 5 press release, the Tribunal ordered the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to pay Michael Campbell compensation based on work available to him in both Jamaica and Ontario. The WSIB’s practice of reducing workers’ comp for temporary foreign workers is unfair and contrary to the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Tribunal determined.

“This decision supports protecting the rights of injured migrant workers, and the Tribunal should be commended,” Airissa Gemma, a community legal worker with IAVGO who represented Campbell, said in a media statement. “The WSIB needs to take immediate steps to change this cruel and unlawful policy.”

Campbell worked on a peach farm in Ontario for nearly a decade, trying to better the lives of his four children, IAVGO stated in the release. He did not have permanent immigration status in Canada, which tied him to one employer and left him with no labour mobility.

After he injured his back in a workplace accident in 2008, the WSIB cut Campbell’s benefits under the assumption that he could still live and work at a minimum-wage job in Ontario. As a result, he lost his livelihood and his ability to work in Ontario and had to return to Jamaica, where his family slipped into poverty.

“What the WSIB does is unfair,” Campbell said in a press statement. “WSIB needs to change its policy now, so no one else has to go through what I went through.”

The Tribunal decision on Campbell’s behalf was the result of a nine-year effort to get justice in his case, the release claimed.

One organization that supported Campbell’s case was Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW), a Toronto-based grassroots entity that promotes the rights of temporary foreign workers in Canada.

“Countless injured migrant farm workers and their families have become impoverished and destitute from this WSIB policy,” J4MW organizer Chris Ramsaroop said in a statement. “This decision proves what many have been advocating for years and to no avail: their policy is unfair and… has to stop.”

Local media reports have stated that the WSIB plans to review the Tribunal’s ruling and consider revising its policies.

Funded by Legal Aid Ontario, IAVGO is a legal clinic with a focus on the rights of injured workers.

Conference confronts high injury rates of B.C. healthcare assistants

VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Hearts and Hands Conference brought together more than 250 healthcare assistants at Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre on Oct. 3, to discuss the issue of time-loss injuries among British Columbia’s healthcare assistants. A news release from WorkSafeBC, which co-sponsored the conference, stated that the event would include seminars on the challenges of staying healthy in the profession and coping strategies. WorkSafeBC claimed that it receives more time-loss claims from healthcare assistants than from people in any other occupation, including more than 16,000 claims from 2012 to 2016. The most commonly cited causes of injury are overexertion, violence and slips, trips and falls. “Frontline workers in healthcare face many challenges that can profoundly affect their morale and sense of well-being,” Elizabeth Causton, a former clinical counsellor and the conference’s keynote speaker, said in a press statement. “Maintaining good health and resiliency involves embracing the challenges we can control, celebrating individual and collective strengths to foster a more positive environment and nourishing a joyful life.” Another Hearts and Hands Conference is planned for Oct. 26 in Victoria, the release noted.

WorkplaceNL observes Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Week

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The workers’ compensation board for Newfoundland and Labrador has declared Sept. 24-30 to be Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Week, during which it is urging workers to lift, push, pull and handle heavy materials more safely. A news release from WorkplaceNL stated that it had launched an awareness campaign to encourage prevention of these injuries with the slogan, “How would YOU handle it?”, offering practical tips such as getting help with big loads and using mechanical aids if possible. WorkplaceNL safety advisors are working with employers to devise practical ways to prevent injuries. “Musculoskeletal injuries can impact the quality of every aspect of a worker’s daily life,” WorkplaceNL CEO Dennis Hogan said in a press statement. “Our goal this week, and throughout the year, is to help employers and workers recognize how musculoskeletal injuries may happen and to provide them with solutions so people do not get hurt.” Nearly 70 per cent of the province’s lost-time injury claims over the past five years have resulted from musculoskeletal injuries, and about 1,600 N.L. healthcare workers are injured while handling patients every year, according to information from WorkplaceNL.

WSIB to review previously rejected cancer claims by GE employees

TORONTO, Ont. – Ontario’s workers’ compensation board has announced that it is planning to re-examine more than 250 claims submitted by General Electric (GE) employees in Peterborough since 2004. A Sept. 18 news release from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) stated that a Dedicated Review Team would deal with both cancer- and non-cancer-related claims that had previously been rejected, reviewing them in the contexts of updated scientific research about links between chemical exposure and illness and of technical advances in identifying next of kin. “The Peterborough community has presented information that helps clarify the exposures people had to various chemicals and substances,” Armando Fatigati, the WSIB’s vice president of complex claims, said in a press statement. “We’ll be looking at what they were exposed to, how much of it they were exposed to and how long people were exposed to these chemicals and substances.” Fatigati added that the WSIB had made more than 2,400 decisions on claims from GE Peterborough employees since 1993, approving more than 80 per cent of them. Earlier this year, a report by the Advisory Committee on Retrospective Exposures concluded that workers had been exposed to more than 3,000 toxic chemicals for more than 50 years at the Peterborough facility (COHSN, May 23).

WorkSafeNB holding consultation meetings for auto-repair sector

SAINT JOHN, N.B. – New Brunswick’s occupational health and safety authority is planning to develop an injury- and fatality-prevention strategy for the province’s auto-repair industry. An undated announcement on the WorkSafeNB website stated that the organization will be hosting consultation meetings with stakeholders on garage and auto-repair safety throughout the province from Sept. 12 to 29. WorkSafeNB has scheduled English-language meetings in Bathurst, Moncton, Saint John, Grand Falls and Fredericton during this period, as well as French-language meetings in Caraquet, St-Basile and Moncton. “WorkSafeNB is concerned about the high number and severity of injuries, including fatalities, in this industry,” the announcement read. “We’d like to collaborate with you [auto-repair employers] to help keep you and your workers safe. Services may include industry-specific resources, education and assistance from our staff.” WorkSafeNB provides rehabilitation services and compensation benefits for injured workers in addition to promoting prevention.

New safety campaign targets young workers in British Columbia

RICHMOND, B.C. – British Columbia’s occupational health and safety authority has launched an awareness campaign aimed at young workers, to encourage them to raise safety concerns with employers. The WorkSafeBC campaign, called Listen to Your Gut, is also targeting the province’s employers with a video series titled What I Know Now, which features employers remembering their first jobs in their youth and the safety lessons they learned, according to a news release that WorkSafeBC sent out on July 19. The goal is to get more young workers to feel comfortable speaking out about workplace situations they deem unsafe. “All young-worker injuries and deaths are unacceptable,” Trudi Rondou, WorkSafeBC’s senior manager of industry and labour services, said in a media statement. “We want to address reservations young workers may have about raising safety concerns with their bosses, encourage them to trust their instincts and help them understand their rights and responsibilities on the job.” British Columbia saw 18 fatalities among young workers from 2012 to 2016, according to WorkSafeBC.