Today, is another day when I'll be discussing injured workers, here on Life with Lynnie (LwL).
If you read recent LwL entries, you'll know that I paid tribute to the RCMP officers who did all they could to protect others. Especially, to those who were injured, and who were killed in the line of duty.
The fact is... each of those people, are injured workers.
Recently, I received an e-mail regarding injured workers, stating what I am posting, today. It is as follows:
WSIB changes will hurt workers, advocates say; Insurance board denying benefits
to hundreds of employees due to 'pre-existing conditions'
Toronto Star, May 7, 2014
William Harris never missed a day of
work until his accident on Nov. 23, 2010.
The burly Great Lakes shipper
was opening an 18-tonne hatch to load gravel destined for St. Mary's Cement in
Detroit when a faulty hinge sprung open.
"I was propelled into the air
like a lawn dart. I felt every vertebra in my back go pop, pop, pop, pop," he
recalls. "I haven't been the same since."
Under Ontario's 100-year-old
no-fault workplace insurance program administered by the Workplace Safety and
Insurance Board (WSIB), the cost of Harris's physiotherapy, prescription drugs
and other medical treatment was covered. He also received income support for his
But every time he tried to return to work, he hurt his back
again. After his last injury, in October 2012, WSIB stopped paying. The
insurance board said X-rays of Harris's back showed evidence of degenerative
discs, a pre-existing condition that disqualifies him from further payments.
Workers' advocates say hundreds of injured workers have, like Harris,
been denied benefits for pre-existing medical conditions since 2010, when the
former Dalton McGuinty government appointed David Marshall as WSIB president.
They blame Marshall's marching orders "to reduce and ultimately retire"
the board's $12 billion unfunded liability, the difference between current
funding levels and long-term payouts to injured workers. They say this financial
imperative is behind a proposed new WSIB policy on pre-existing conditions that
would "fundamentally change" the system and throw thousands of injured workers
Instead of putting the squeeze on injured workers,
advocates say the board should restore cuts to employer contributions made by
Mike Harris's Progressive Conservative government that are the root of the
WSIB's current financial woes.
The WSIB counters that Ontario is the
only jurisdiction in Canada without a policy on pre-existing conditions, and
that workers' advocates themselves requested the clarification. The board denies
that money has anything to do with the change.
The proposed policy "is
under consideration given the need for consistency in decision making, not for
financial reasons," board spokeswoman Christine Arnott wrote in an email.
Harris, 40, is fighting the board's decision. His lawyer says he will
most likely win because the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeal Tribunal
the so-called "thin skull doctrine," a common-law principle enshrined
in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.
The legal principle,
well-tested in personal injuries litigation, states that "you take your victim
as you find him/her." In the workplace, this means that
compensation for an
injury is not discounted due to any pre-existing condition the worker may have.
The WSIB appeals tribunal has typically interpreted this to mean that if
a pre-existing condition wasn't interfering with the employee's work before the
injury, then it doesn't negatively affect the amount or duration of compensation
an employee is entitled to after an injury.
But the proposed WSIB policy
revision would instruct the appeals tribunal to take a much narrower view, say
workers' advocates who are urging against the change.
acknowledge they raised the issue during an earlier consultation, but not
because they saw a policy gap. They raised it because they noticed the board was
denying more people like Harris, and they wanted to know what was going on. They
argue the WSIB already has a policy on pre-existing conditions spelled out in a
document known as the Second Injury and Enhancement Fund, and that nothing
should be changed.
"This is a seismic shift in the approach to
compensation," says Marion Endicott, of Injured Workers Consultants, a Toronto
legal aid clinic that advises
the government on policy and helps injured
workers with WSIB claims and appeals.
"The draft policies are evidence
of the WSIB's institutional bias in favour of reducing costs, and they are
inconsistent with the law," the clinic says
in its response to the changes.
If they are adopted, injured workers will qualify for short-term claims,
but long-term compensation will disappear, Endicott predicts.
age, degenerative changes in knees, necks and backs are common, Endicott notes.
Under the proposed policy, the WSIB will be able to point to those changes in
injured workers - that often show up on X-rays but don't cause pain or limit
ability to work - and deny any long-term claim, arguing the worker had a
pre-existing condition, she says.
Based on the appeals her office is
seeing, the WSIB is already applying the policy "illegally," she adds.
In an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne last month before the
election call, the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups urged the
government to intervene.
"This is a direct contravention of your
government concern about poverty reduction and the historic compromise, in which
workers gave up their right to sue in return for fair and just compensation
(funded by employers) for as long as the disability lasts," the letter says.
The WSIB stresses that recent cost improvements in the system are not
being made on the backs of injured workers, but "due to improved safety in
workplaces resulting in fewer injury claims" and "better medical care and
assistance for injured workers returning to work," Arnott writes in the email.
This is no comfort to injured Burlington worker Richard Renzella, 50,
who used to earn as much as $60,000 a year repairing electrical transformers for
clients such as Ontario Hydro. He is literally a living example of how the WSIB
is ignoring the "thin skull doctrine," advocates say.
injured in 2002 when he fell about five metres inside a transformer tank and
struck his head, leaving him permanently injured and unable to work.
WSIB awarded him a non-economic loss award for cognitive impairment, which it
discounted by 25 per cent for a pre-existing condition because Renzella's
medical file showed he was hit in the eye by a tennis ball when he was a child.
But as his lawyer, Laura Lunansky, notes, Renzella did not have a
pre-existing impairment or even a pre-existing condition before the fall. "He
was perfectly fine before the accident," she says.
Since the impact of
head injuries can be cumulative, Renzella's injury may have been more severe as
a result of his childhood accident, Lunansky acknowledges. The key, however, is
that if he hadn't been injured on the job, Renzella would not have any cognitive
Instead, Renzella, who suffers memory loss as well as
permanent physical injuries from the accident, is barely surviving on WSIB
payments of less than minimum wage. He uses food banks to make ends meet and
worries about losing his condo as fees and property taxes rise.
everyone I meet to be careful at work," he says. "Because if you get injured,
WSIB won't pay you."
Wow! I must admit, I found this article that was posted in The Toronto Star newspaper, rather shocking.
Please don't misunderstand. I'm not shocked about what the article tells us, for I have known many people who have suffered going through the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) system. Including, myself.
I am shocked that The Toronto Star printed that article. Kudos to The Toronto Star!
Thank you, for speaking up in support of those who are being hurt by a system that was set up to help and not hurt those who have been injured while working. I pray God will bless your newspaper business, and the people who agreed to share that article!
Thinking of The Toronto Star's effort of good works, reminded me of Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Doing good works is truly important, as we read in this Bible verse. God wants us to let our light shine before men, so that they may see our good works.
Just as The Toronto Star did, by helping readers understand that injured workers are suffering.
While I am thanking The Toronto Star for their effort in educating the general public on this issue, please know that I am not trying to glorify them. After all, none of us newspaper readers have control over what is published.
The real glory goes to God. Our Father in Heaven.
He's the person who places things on our hearts and minds, in an effort to help us to assist others.
I praise God that He placed it on the hearts and minds of those who decided to let the public see what injured workers are going through. Especially, since the injustice they experience isn't easy. Nor, fun.
May God bless each of you, who have supported injured workers... in any way.
Until next time...
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