On Thursday Injured worker activist Maryam Nazemi was one of eight awarded the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship . A long-time advocate for full workers’ compensation coverage , Maryam was recognized for turning “a personal workplace tragedy into a driving force for change. A community builder, she is helping many from many cultural backgrounds deal with the pain and disruption of a work injury…”
The March 6 Big Story podcast “Mental health at work: The cost of ‘boys being boys’ ” (21:53 mins) focused on the difficulties in having the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) recognize chronic stress claims, in particular those resulting from persistent harassment. (An internal audit tracking outcomes following introduction of the new chronic stress policy in 2018 found the Board denied 94% of claims.) The interview with Toronto Star‘s Sara Mojtehedzadeh discusses the experience of Margery Wardle (and her strength) in pursuing a long-running battle for workers’ compensation for stress from a toxic environment created by male co-workers.
Former rubber workers in the Kitchener-Waterloo area were relieved to learn that the WSIB’s review of compensation claims will in fact include previously denied claims appealed to the Workplace Safety and Appeals Tribunal (Waterloo Region Record, Mar. 5). “Many sick rubber workers and their widows are hoping the WSIB review could finally bring justice after years of fighting the province over their occupational disease claims… Of the 404 claims filed between 2002 and 2017 by former employees of some of Kitchener’s largest rubber companies, only 15 per cent were granted.The number of appeals heading to the WSIAT has grown significantly since 2014, while the WSIB’s compensation payouts have been slashed in half…”
WSIB audits are intended to ensure employers are complying with their duty to report workplace injuries and are paying their fair share of premiums. Yet, as reported in the Toronto Star (Mar. 6), while temporary help agencies are more likely to break the law, WSIB documents show audits of these temp agencies declined from 454 in 2016 to just 85 in 2018 as the Board moved to its new “risk-based model.” Among those calling for calling for increased oversight , John Bartolomeo, co-director of the Toronto-based Workers’ Health and Safety Legal Clinic noted “… it’s a disappointment that we aren’t putting as many resources as possible toward prevention of accidents … This isn’t just about the employer having the right records. It’s getting everyone to think about the importance of health and safety.”
Thunder Bay’s TBNewswatch (Mar 4) reported that – after a quarter of a century – the Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) has overturned a 1993 Board decision which denied the claimant workers’ compensation benefits. The claim, by a former accounts-receivable clerk in her 30s at the time, was for workplace injury to her neck caused largely by posture affected by an unstable chair and ergonomically inappropriate desk. Significantly, the tribunal panel said in its decision (No. 3090/18) it preferred “the medical evidence of the worker’s treating physicians, who treated and examined (her) over an extended period of time, as well as (the) specialist orthopedic surgeon…over the board medical consultants who did not have the benefit of a physical examination of the worker.”