Work Related Illnesses and Work Related Injuries

In today’s labour market, there are many stressful jobs. There are also jobs that are physically straining. But at what point is an employer liable for illnesses (mental or physical) which are a result of employees performing their job duties?

Employment Standards set out mandatory policies for Health and Safety. Particularly, in workplaces that are known to be more stressful or more physically draining, employers must have safeguards in place to eliminate the chances of an employee becoming ill as a result of their duties.

Despite these safeguards, work related illnesses are still prevalent. In 2012, the Workers Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) paid $2.67 billion to compensate injured workers and their families (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (2013). Fourth Quarter 2012 Report to Stakeholders. Toronto: WSIB).

Defining a “Work Related” Illness

A work related illness is a physical or mental illness which would not have arose had an individual not entered into a particular work environment or performed specific job duties.

Work related illnesses more commonly take a physical form (i.e burns from an oven, broken foot from a warehouse accident), however there are an increasing number of cases wherein an employee has developed a mental illness as a result of the work environment. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has developed a guide to ensuring mental well-being and psychosocial support which can be found here.

Mental illnesses are the hardest illnesses to spot in a development stage. That is why so important to have Health and Safety guidelines which prevent hostile work environments or harassing behaviour from developing or continuing.

Case Law

There have been many cases wherein an employer has been found liable for employee injuries or illness arising out of their duties. In the case of Metropolitan Entertainment Group v. Durnford [2000] N.S.J. No. 343, a casino employee, Angela Durnford, developed right lateral epicondylitis from dealing cards. The court found that the illness arose out of her duties, and that compensation was in order. Similarly, in the case of Hewitson v. Robin Hood Mills Ltd. [1923] S.J. No. 105, an employee who lifted a 5 foot gangway injured his back severely. His employer was also found liable, and he was awarded the maximum amount of compensation for a work related injury for that time, which was $2,500.00.

Ongoing Advice

If you have sustained an injury arising out of your workplace duties or have developed a mental illness/ suffered mental distress as a result of your work environment or conduct of one of your co-workers, contact Monkhouse Law today.

An employment lawyer can be very useful in situations such as this as they can advise you on procedures with the WSIB, what options are available in terms of disability benefits (if applicable), and can assist you in submitting a claim to the WSIB or to a court of law.

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