Occupational Diseases for Workers' Compensation (7:VI)
A. Overview of Compensable Occupational Diseases
An Occupational Disease (OccD) is a particular disease or medical condition which is recognized by the Board as likely or possibly caused by work, based on scientific evidence. The Board “recognizes” an OccD formally by listing it in policy and these lists are updated as new scientific evidence becomes available. A “disease” is a broad category which includes exposures, cancer, poisons, repetitive strain injuries, hearing loss and contagious and respiratory diseases.
To determine if a worker’s medical condition is a recognized OccD, consult the two policy provisions listing the recognized OccDs: Appendix 2/Schedule B (which sets out OccDs recognized as qualifying for a presumption of work causation for certain industries) and Policy #26.03 in Chapter 4 of the RSCM II, which sets out additional OccDs recognized by Regulation. Each type has different tests for work causation, which must be met if the OccD is to be accepted by the Board as compensable.
B. Occupational Diseases listed in Schedule B (Appendix 2) of the RSCM II
OccDs listed in Schedule B are matched with the particular industries in which they commonly occur. If the worker has that disease and works in the listed industry at the time of disablement, the OccD is presumed to have been caused by that work unless the contrary is proven [section 6(3) of the Act]. A presumption of work causation only arises for diseases mentioned in Schedule B when the worker is working in the listed industry immediately before the date of disablement. Otherwise, no presumption applies. Also, the contrary may be proven in an individual case. For example, where a worker was employed as a coal miner at or before the date of disablement, silicosis is compensable unless it is proven to have been caused by non-work factors such as smoking.
OccDs in Schedule B include certain kinds of cancers, respiratory diseases including asbestosis, and repetitive strain injuries. If a worker has a Schedule B disease but does not work in the listed industry, the worker’s OccD can still be compensable if work causation can be proven under section 6(1). In addition, section 6.1 of the Act sets out a special work presumption for firefighters who suffer a heart attack on the job.
Policy #26.21 of the RSCM II provides a helpful guide to the special rules for a Schedule B presumption.
C. Occupational Diseases listed in policy #26.03 RSCM II
Additional OccDs are listed in Policy #26.03, including many repetitive strain injuries and specific conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Lyme Disease. These diseases must be adjudicated under s. 6(1) of the WCA, where work causation must be proven in each case.
Section 6(1) states that if:
- a worker suffers from an occupational disease and is thereby disabled from earning full wages at the work at which he or she was employed; or
- the death of a worker is caused by an industrial disease; and
- the disease is due to the nature of any employment in which the worker was employed, whether under one or more employments; then:
compensation is payable as if the disease were a personal injury arising out of and in the course of that employment.