Is it Time for a Royal Commission on Occupational Illness & Compensation?

To resolve the pressing problems of occupational disease and the difficulty sick workers have in getting compensation, one expert says that latest WSIB review won’t cut it.

Jim Brophy is an adjunct professor at the University of Windsor who has been studying occupational disease for more than 30 years. In a recent interview with the Waterloo Region Record, Brophy said that what’s really needed is a royal commission. “The rubber worker stories really cry out for an open, public inquiry into what is happening in terms of occupational disease and the lack of recognition by the compensation system.”

Things were looking up when WSIB announced last December that it would be giving a second look at hundreds of denied claims involving rubber workers, both at the WSIB and appeal (WSIAT) levels.

Then not long after, the province announced it had engaged Dr. Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre at Cancer Care Ontario, to conduct an occupational cancer review to be complete by the end of 2019.

But earlier this month, the WSIB concluded its review of previously-denied rubber worker cases, and most of them were not reversed: 253 denials were upheld, while 31 were allowed. 174 additional claims were added to the review after it began, and those are still being processed.

It was also recently revealed that Dr. Demers’ occupational cancer review would not include an analysis of individual claims–something that baffles both Brophy and retired occupational health researcher Bob DeMatteo.

A royal commission would be a national, transparent investigation into problems related to occupational disease and compensation in Canada, headed by a panel of appointed experts. While there is no guarantee that a commission’s findings are acted upon, royal commissions tend to garner a lot of public interest.

Keeping track of all the developments related to WSIB, workers compensation and occupational disease in Ontario is no easy task. If these topics are of interest to you, be sure to visit our WSIB Blog, where we routinely post news stories, press releases and other relevant links.