WSIB Traumatic Mental Stress Claims: What You Need To Know

In our last post we reiewed the WSIB’s new chronic mental stress policy. In today’s post, we will focus on traumatic mental stress in the workplace and the policies WSIB has in place to cover these types of injuries.

Under WSIB Policy 15-03-02: Traumatic Mental Stress, you may have a valid claim for traumatic mental stress if you have been diagnosed with a mental stress injury that was caused by one or more traumatic events arising out of and in the course of your employment.

The mental stress injury could be diagnosed as acute stress disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an adjustment disorder, an anxiety or depressive disorder, or another diagnosis pursuant to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

What are some examples of traumatic events?

WSIB policy provides that most traumatic events are sudden and unexpected and that the threat of harm or death is as valid as actual harm or death. Here are some of the examples of traumatic events that WSIB covers in the policy:

  • witnessing a fatality or a horrific accident
  • witnessing or being the object of an armed robbery or hostage-taking
  • being the object of physical violence
  • being the object of death threats, or threats of physical violence where the worker believes the threats are serious and harmful to self or others
  • being the object of workplace harassment that includes physical violence, threats of physical violence, being placed in a life-threatening or potentially life-threatening situation

(Remember: there is a specific and separate policy for PTSD in first responders. It applies to fire fighters, police officers, paramedics, EMTs, and other designated workers. See: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in First Responders and Other Designated Workers.)

What if I have suffered a series of traumatic events?

The traumatic mental stress policy acknowledges that sometimes workers have experienced multiple traumatic events in the course of their work. WSIB recognizes that these experiences may add up over time, regardless of the severity or order of those individual traumatic events.

Even if you were able to tolerate or cope with previous traumatic events, you are not disqualified from entitlement when a subsequent traumatic event results in a mental stress injury. The policy says that “a final reaction to a series of traumatic events is considered to be the cumulative effect”.

What’s the difference between chronic and traumatic mental stress?

According to the WSIB:

“Work-related traumatic mental stress involves events that are generally accepted as traumatic, such as a criminal act or witnessing a horrific accident. In most cases a traumatic event will be sudden and unexpected. For example, witnessing a workplace fatality or being the victim of an armed robbery could be the cause of work-related traumatic mental stress.

Work-related chronic mental stress involves identifiable stressful events that are not traumatic, but are substantial, which means that they are excessive in intensity and/or duration compared with the normal pressures and tensions experienced by other people working in similar circumstances. For example, being the target of a co-worker who persistently uses racial epithets and abusive language.”