Did You Know? What's New in Workplace Safety and Insurance, Summer 2020
Ontario workplaces have been forced to focus their attention on the challenges imposed by COVID-19. As a result, changes to the workplace safety and insurance scheme may not have received as much attention as usually would be the case.
A. WSIB Ontario – WSIB Policy Agenda 2020
The Ontario WSIB issued the “Framework for Operational Policy Development and Renewal” at the beginning of 2020 to update and clarify changes which may be forthcoming to the Operational Policy Manual.
The Board’s Policy Agenda for 2020 will be driven by the 2019-2021 Strategic Plan, projects from prior years (e.g. Rate Framework), advancements in science and medicine (e.g. medical cannabis policy), possible changes to existing policy (e.g. annual indexation) and the capacity of stakeholders to participate in consultations.
The completion and implementation of the new Rate Framework Modernization continues as a top priority.
WSIB anticipates publishing revisions arising out of a Return to Work policy review scheduled in 2020.
The Occupational Cancer Research Centre’s study into the impact Occupational Aluminum Exposure and the Review on Occupational Cancer conducted by Paul Demers for the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development will also be on the WSIB policy agenda.
WSIB will be giving consideration to the recommendations from the Ontario Government’s Operational Review of the WSIB.
B. WSIB Ontario – Framework for operational policy development and renewal
As referenced in the WSIB Policy Agenda 2020, the Board also developed and made public an excellent document which identifies the legal foundation and role of operational policy and outlines the WSIB’s approach to operational policy development and renewal.
The framework starts with a background section highlighting the history and core principles of workers’ compensation. Sections on legislation, regulation and operational policy follow. WSIB processes are explained for administrative practice documentation, agenda setting, operational policy development, issue identification, and consultation.
A copy of the framework document is available on the WSIB website.
C. “Using Scientific Evidence and Principles to Help Determine the Work-Relatedness of Cancer”, Final Report – January 9, 2020, Paul A. Demers, Occupational Cancer Research Centre, Ontario Health.
In January 2019, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development commissioned an independent review to provide advice on three questions.
1. How can scientific evidence best be used in determining work-relatedness in an occupational cancer claim, particularly in cases with multiple exposures? 2. Are there any best practices in other jurisdictions that Ontario should consider adopting? 3. What scientific principles should inform the development of occupational disease policy?
The report (54 pages) establishes the context for occupational cancer in Ontario. The Canadian Cancer Society has estimated that 82,100 Ontarians will receive a cancer diagnosis in 2019 and that 29,700 will die from cancer. Approximately 44% will be diagnosed with cancer in a lifetime and 24% will die from cancer. It is estimated that approximately half of all cancers, including those caused by work, are preventable.
The report provides a number of recommendations.
1. WSIB should update and greatly expand the list of presumptions regarding cancer in Schedules 3 and 4 to reflect the current state of scientific knowledge. Presumption should be based on exposure to carcinogenic agents and processes and not specific employers. Criteria should include evidence of a strong causal link between the disease and occupational exposure, have clear diagnostic criteria, and the occupational disease should comprise a considerable proportion of the cases of that disease overall in the exposed population. 2. WSIB should update and expand all of the policies relevant to adjudication of cancer claims to reflect the current state of scientific knowledge. 3. WSIB should create an independent, standing Scientific Review Panel to review and recommend changes to the schedules and policies, to review and approve scientific reports, and to assist in the selection of external consultants and researchers. The Panel should be composed of independent scientists with a broad range of expertise.
Recommendations to enhance scientific capacity:
1. WSIB needs to increase its internal scientific capacity to at least its previous levels. 2. Stronger partnerships with external research centres, including those funded by the WSIB, are needed for research on emerging issues and gaps of importance to Ontario. 3. Provincial capacity needs to be developed to investigate cancer clusters and other emerging issues. Ideally, this should be part of the Ministry, independent from the WSIB and could also focus on prevention of future diseases as well as compensation.
Recommendations to improve access to exposure data for compensation (and prevention):
1. Adjudication should be improved by better access to electronic exposure data. WSIB should attempt to partner with the Canadian Workplace Exposure Database (CWED). 2. The Ministry should lower data access barriers and create better mechanisms to provide exposure-related data to WSIB. 3. The Ministry should collect copies of exposure monitoring results from employers at the time of inspections and computerize those results to facilitate access to exposure monitoring data.
4. WSIB should explore opportunities to work with external research organizations to digitize historical exposure or employment records for high-risk industries.
Recommendations to improve recognition through medical education:
1. Physician education is a challenging area that deserves more investigation but is beyond the scope of the report. Medical education should be improved to increase the recognition of occupational cancer.
D. Provincial Legislation
During the current sitting of the Ontario Legislature a number of bills have come forward addressing WSIB issues.
1. Bill 152, Occupational Health and Safety Day Act, 2019.
This Private Member’s Bill proposes to proclaim the first Tuesday in May in each year as Occupational Health and Safety Day to recognize the importance of supporting and nurturing a safety and health culture in every workplace. The day would take place during North American Occupational Safety and Health Week and provide an opportunity to promote workplace safety and health through education of safety and health rights, responsibilities and prevention measures. Status: Second Reading on November 28, 2019, and referral to the Standing Committee on Social Policy.
2. Bill 191, Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Presumption Respecting COVID-19), 2020
This Private Member’s Bill proposes to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, respecting workers who work for a business that has been listed as an essential business. If a worker for an essential business receives a positive test for COVID-19 the disease is presumed to be an occupational disease that occurs due to the nature of the worker’s work, unless the contrary is shown.
The presumption applies to a positive test received on or after January 25, 2020. Status: First Reading on May 19, 2020.
3. Bill 194, WSIB Coverage for Workers in Residential Care Facilities and Group Homes Act, 2020.
This Private Member’s Bill proposes to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, to provide that an employer who operates a residential care facility or a group home is a Schedule 1 employer for the purposes of the Act. Status: First Reading on July 6, 2020.
E. WSIB – Accident Cost statement code mapping
The WSIB has announced that claims with accident dates before January 1, 2020, will continue to show the rate group three-digit numeric code. New registered claims with accident dates of January 1, 2020, and later, will be classified under the NAICS class/subclass code.
The WSIB has provided a sample concordance document which is available on the WSIB website.
Prepared by: Jason Mandlowitz President
Date: July 20, 2020.