The Latest on Ontario Rubber Industry Workers Compensation

The past few months have brought many ups and downs for former rubber industry workers and surviving family members in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

  • The good news began late in 2018, when the WSIB announced it would review many previously denied claims, including those from rubber workers.
  • More welcome news followed in January, when the government of Ontario announced a long-overdue review of occupational cancers to be led by internationally-recognized expert Dr. Paul Demers of Cancer Care Ontario.
  • But last month, the Waterloo Region Record revealed that the WSIB had been “internally flagging the sector as a cluster of occupational disease” (along with GE workers, miners exposed to McIntyre Powder, herbicide sprayers, and firefighters) long before they decided to launch a review of the denied claims.
  • In mid-March, after months of confusion and conflicting information from WSIB to claimants, the Board clarified and emphasized that “all local rubber worker claims made between 2002 and 2017 will be included”, including “claims that were previously appealed through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal or the WSIB.”

So now what? Well, as the Occupational Cancers and WSIB reviews get underway, the Ontario Rubber Workers Project is inviting affected workers and surviving family members to attend a special information session on March 28 and 29, to learn about the current state of occupational disease claims and possible compensation. The project “seeks to investigate the cause of cancer clusters that have occurred in workers employed in the rubber industry in the  Kitchener, Waterloo, and surrounding area.

The Ontario Rubber Workers Project is a joint effort of retired rubber workers, their families, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers Inc. (OHCOW), the Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA), the United Steelworkers (USW) and their retirees group the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR).

The track record of WSIB on handling claims from Kitchener area rubber workers does not inspire confidence. After all, it has been known for decades that rubber industry workers endure high levels of occupational disease. In a 1993 statement from the Centers for Disease Control, “excess deaths from bladder, stomach, lung, hematopoietic, and other cancers have occurred among workers involved in the manufacture of rubber products. These workers may also risk adverse respiratory effects, dermatologic effects, reproductive effects, injuries, and repetitive trauma disorders.”

For rubber industry workers and family members of workers who have health problems that may be related to the industry, it is advisable to connect with the Ontario Rubber Workers Project or to talk to a WSIB lawyer who can advise and assist you.