Does Bill 160 threaten worker safety

In a recent three-quarter page Toronto Star advertisement, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario Compensation Employees Union (OCEU) have complained that the government’s proposed legislation, Bill 160, will endanger Ontario’s workers. Using some selective statistics, the joint advertisement claims that injuries and deaths have decreased since WSIB assumed responsibility for prevention in 1998.

It also claims that Bill 160 would represent an unfair tax load for some employers, apparently ignoring the present unequal burden of prevention costs.

The advertisement also suggests the Ministry of Labour – who is responsible for the Occupational Health and Safety Act – might not be the best place to locate prevention services. Noting that the whole point of the OHSA is to create workspaces that minimize or eliminate work injuries, it is not altogether easy to follow this logic.

It is hard to escape the fear of job losses at the WSIB as the main thrust behind this advertisement. That might be a legitimate and justifiable concern, but from our reading of the proposed legislation, we fail to see the peril that this legislation might introduce to the workplace.

It should be remembered that when Bill 99 created the WSIB, there was great fanfare in the announcement that the new Board would function as ‘an insurance company’. Responsibility for rehabilitation was off-loaded because that was not the proper job of an insurer, we were told. So it might seem to be ironic that when we are in the midst of rehabilitation services returning to the WSIB, they are losing prevention services – something else that never really seemed to jive with being ‘an insurance company’.

Posted by Paul Harris

Bill 160 will change health and safety delivery in Ontario

On March 3, 2011, Minister of Labour Charles Sousa introduced Bill 160, an act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (WSIA).  At this point, it has only undergone First Reading so there may be a long road ahead before it might become law. Since Ontario is facing a provincial election in October this year, it might die on the order paper before an election ever occurs.

The gist of the Bill is to remove from the WSIA (and, thus, from the WSIB) oversight for health and safety certification and training.

There is also the intent to create a Prevention Council and a Chief Prevention Officer under the OHSA although details are scant about what those would be expected to accomplish.

One interesting proposed amendment in the WSIA would see WSIB paying construction workers for their time in regard to fulfilling the requirements to become certified under the OHSA – sort of compensation for learning how to help others not get injured and need compensation themselves.

Since those certification and training matters will no longer be provide by WSIB, does that mean employers can expect to see lower premiums?

Posted by Paul Harris

WSIB adjudicator refuses to reconsider even with undeniable proof she is wrong

Recently, one of our clients presented WSIB with videotape evidence that a
 worker was not where he claimed to be. Since he said he had sustained an
 accident at that location, you might think the fact he wasn’t there at all 
was pretty compelling evidence.

Not for this Eligibility Adjudicator. The video camera used is motion
 activated so nothing is recorded until there is a vehicle or person entering
 the camera’s view. On the video, we see vehicles coming and going 
throughout the day but not one vehicle coming or leaving the company yard 
during the time when the worker claimed the accident occurred. Apparently,
 for her, proof of absence means the same as absence of proof.

The Eligibility Adjudicator refuses to even consider the video evidence as 
demonstrating that the worker was “not in the course of his employment” and
 says that she will not even review an expert report from an investigations
 company explaining that there is no vehicle entering or leaving the premises, 
and how “motion activated” recording works. She insists she has made up her
 mind, and that the expert report can be presented at an appeal. It does not 
matter to her that an Appeal will likely take up to 12 months to be heard.

Apparently this Adjudicator is unfamiliar with WSIB Policy 11-01-02, which 
states in part: “As an inquiry system (rather than an adversarial system),
the WSIB gathers relevant information, weighs evidence, and makes decisions.
The WSIB’s decisions and practices must be consistent with the provisions of 
the Act and the rules of natural justice.” It seems to me that 
incontrovertible proof ought to be considered ‘relevant information’ and 
that ‘natural justice’ would require the evidence be used as part of the
 decision-making process.

Not only should this claim be not allowed, the worker should be considered for section 149 charges.

What is really most stunning here is the Eligibility Adjudicator’s admission 
that, really, she can’t be bothered – she’s made up her mind and that’s all 
there is to it.

Posted by Cézanne Charlebois

WSIB fails to apply law about CPP benefits

Section 43 of the Act describes how benefit entitlement is to be calculated. Within that, section is the following text:

(5) The calculation of the amount of the payments is subject to the following rules:

2. The amount described by clause (2)(b) must reflect any disability payments paid to the worker under the Canada Pension Plan or the Québec Pension Plan in respect of the injury.

This seems to be a clear statement of the legislature’s intent – in law, as you know, the word ‘must’ is not negotiable. That is, if a compensable injury also attracts benefits under the Canada (or Québec) Pension Plan, then WSIB benefits are to be offset by an equal amount.

WSIB Case Managers routinely and regularly, almost without fail, do not take CPP/QPP payments into account when calculating WSIB payments. Indeed, they regularly tell employers or their representatives that they don’t ask the worker if s/he has applied, or suggest to the worker that they should. We fail to see how the Board can accurately apply the law if Case Managers are choosing to overlook the necessity of pursuing possible CPP/QPP confirmation from workers who appear likely to qualify for those benefits.

WSIB Policy 18-01-13 states:

Loss of Earnings (LOE)
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act provides:
When calculating LOE benefits, the amount of net average earnings the worker is able to earn in suitable and available employment or business after the injury must reflect any disability payments paid to the worker under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) in respect of the injury.

Future Economic Loss (FEL)
The Workers’ Compensation Act provides:
When calculating FEL benefits and determining the amount of net average earnings the worker is able to earn in suitable and available employment after the injury, the WSIB must have regard to any disability payments the worker may receive for the injury under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) or the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP).

[Note we haven’t added the emphasis – that’s the way it is in the published policy. We presume, therefore, the Board of Directors (who approve policies) really mean it.]

It matters. For Schedule I employers, they are bearing at least part of a burden that the Act says they should not. For Schedule 2 employers, they are paying the full freight for WSIB ignoring its own legislation.

Posted by Paul Harris

Potential changes to workplace safety In Ontario

In late December, 2010, a 10-person Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health And Safety released a wide-ranging report recommending significant changes to the OHS system in Ontario. Amongst the recommendations, many of which are expected to result in structural changes to the OHS system or amendments to OHS legislation in the next year are that:
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  • the government create a new prevention organization to focus the OHS system, increase available information to the employer community, reward and accredit positive health and safety systems by employers;
  • mandatory training for new workers, supervisors, health and safety representatives be required;
  • enforcement be more stringent for businesses that engage in “serious and willful” contraventions;
  • changes to procedures for worker complaints of reprisal, or adverse employer action when they report a health and safety concern, and that prosecutions for reprisals occur;
  • mandatory fall protection training be required;
  • administrative monetary penalties be imposed by tribunals, in addition to court-imposed fines.

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For the complete Heenan Blaikie OHS Group analysis of potential future changes, READ MORE.

Posted by Cheryl Edwards