- Judge David Langham
Note from Gerald: I have been privileged to attend a number of webinars with Judge Langham as a very informed guest and attended by numerous doctors and lawyers, all experts in the workers compensation system. Most agree that the grand bargain is no longer a bargain for workers and has not been for quite some time. Several years ago I referred to to the workers compensation systems as being an antiquated system that does not work in the modern world and this verifies what I said years ago. The people we elect for public office are not visionaries that can envision a modern day approach to how the system should work for the benefit of workers and employers. Obviously the biggest problem with the antiquated system is determining causation. When workers compensation was forced onto workers by Government without any checks or balances, compensation was specific to acute injuries which had an obvious causal relation as opposed to hundreds or thousands of diagnosed work related injuries, disease and mental illnesses in the modern world that are denied based on unqualified doctors who provide false and misleading medical opinions that are reviewed by unqualified adjudicators who determine whose medical opinion is more compelling.
Workers compensation has to be the worst disability insurance that a worker would ever be exposed to. This is a system that destroys families, causes suicides.I have yet to talk to any worker that has not said that if they believed if they could get away with it, they would kill the people that ruined their lives. A modern day system would completely eliminate causation and provide disability insurance without establishing a cause being that no one can ascertain what risk factors are present in the work environment. I have yet to review a claim where it did not involve 15-20 doctors or more with none of them being experts as causation is determined by science not by guessing the cause. Unfortunately even medical science is wrong more times than they are right.
Judge Langham is bang on that our politicians have created a two tier system where firefighters are treated differently than other occupations without any evidence to support that firefighters are any more at risk for cancers and heart attacks than any other occupation. Epidemiological studies determining risk was based on reference to the general population which according to the National Academy of Science is not a valid reference. If an epidemiological study were to take any occupational group and reference that occupational group to the general population many occupational groups would have a much higher risk factor than firefighters for cancer or heart attacks. Assembly line workers for example who perform repetitive high force work have 10 times the risk as a firefighter specific to musculoskeletal disorders, yet there is no legislation providing presumptive status to assembly line workers for musculoskeletal disorders. A recent study has determined that driving heavy machinery such as tractors, combines, large trucks results in vibration that causes back injuries, yet there is no presumptive status for truckers, farm workers for back injuries. Studies have also determined that heavy manual work over the years contributes to degenerative disc disease and yet DDD is not presumed to be contributed to by years of heavy manual work. Farm workers who use pesticides, herbicides and insecticides on a regular basis have a much higher risk than fire fighters especially now that Roundup has been determined to be a dangerous carcinogen. It is about time that our politicians brought in a system that protects workers and stops punishing them for injuries or diseases that they had no control over.
The modern system I would envision would be a system that would guarantee acceptance of a claim by not including causation which would reduce costs by at least 50% or more especially the medical component that would reduce or totally eliminate doctors who do not have a doctor patient relationship, have no duty of care, have no responsibility for their medical opinion, can be subpoenaed but never are and cannot be sued for providing false and misleading medical opinions.
Workers’ compensation cancer presumptions are not new. This blog has addressed the topic some with Cancer Presumptions for Firefighters (2014), Firefighters Seek to Change Cancer(2016), and Cancer Presumption in Australia (2016).
There is a bill introduced to bring a cancer compensation process to Florida. Senate Bill 426(“SB426”) would define “cancer” to include the specific maladies of “Bladder cancer, Brain cancer, Breast cancer, Cervical cancer, Colon cancer, Esophageal cancer, Invasive skin cancer, Kidney cancer, Large intestinal cancer, Lung cancer, Malignant melanoma, Mesothelioma, Multiple myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Oral cavity and pharynx cancer, Ovarian cancer, Prostate cancer, Rectal cancer, Stomach cancer, Testicular cancer, (and) Thyroid cancer.”There are those who are referring to this as a “cancer presumption,” but that may not be an accurate description. This bill does not interact with Florida workers’ compensation, but is instead “an alternative to pursuing workers’ compensation benefits under chapter 440.” It is available if a firefighter (or former firefighter for up to 10 years) is diagnosed with cancer and
“has been employed by his or her employer for at least 5 continuous years, has not used tobacco products for at least the preceding 5 years, and has not been employed in any other position in the preceding 5 years which is proven to create a higher risk for any cancer.”
This is not an entirely new subject. Several states have workers’ compensation firefighter cancer presumption laws. According to Pennsylvania Judge David Torrey, thirty-three states have addressed firefighter cancer in some way.Meanwhile, officials in Ontario, Canada are analyzing work cancer claims in a more holistic and inclusive manner. The “director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre at Cancer Care Ontario” has undertaken to study “workplace-related cancer for the Ministry of Labour.” TheRecord.com suggests that cancer claims are “a contentious issue today.” It notes that more “than a century ago” workers compensation laws were enacted, and their effect is a prohibition on employee lawsuits against their employers.The Research Centre Director contends that workers’ compensation was not designed for the modern world. He claims that it is structured based upon knowledge founded “in an era long before occupational disease was understood.” Therefore, he advocates that workers’ compensation needs to “to adapt to the hazards” to which people are exposed at work. He opines that the various jurisdictions’ systems have not evolved in parallel with medical science.TheRecord.com sees an example of this in “former rubber workers.” It notes that some of these have unsuccessfully sought workers’ compensation benefits “for cancer and other diseases,” only to suffer “long delays, road blocks and frustration.” The Director contends that compensation for such disease “should not be an adversarial situation.” Instead, compensation “should be a right to people.” TheRecord.com says that the research the Director is performing will be used by province officials to reconsider rubber workers’ claims for occupational disease between 2002 and 2017.In some cases, the evidence around specific workplace carcinogens isn’t new at all, but the compensation system has still struggled to adequately respond to the problems it causes for workers, he said. He contends that “our knowledge of what causes cancer at work improves every year,” and that this body of evidence to which he refers might be used to support claims for cancer or other occupational disease.The Director “believes the majority of occupational diseases are never reported.” Despite that, the story says that in an eleven year period, the province workers’ compensation system “allowed about 125,000 occupational disease claims which totaled more than $950 million in benefit costs.” Thus, almost a billion dollars (presumably Canadian dollars, which would convert to about $717 billion U.S.). But TheRecord says “that’s just scratching the surface of the problem.”The publication and the Director seem to be advocating for physician education in order that such allegedly work-related conditions are diagnosed as being work-related. Secondarily, there seems to be advocacy of a claims process that is geared toward compensating more such claims after they are “assessed based on the latest science.” There is no description provided of what this science is, however. Perhaps that will all become more clear after the next year of the Canadian study. A recent Canada British Columbia news story draws comparisons between firefighters and other employees.In the mean time, Florida will not be alone in a legislative discussion of cancer this year. WorkCompCentral reported recently that Montana is considering a sweeping presumption bill for firefighters. It reportedly “lists a dozen conditions that would be presumed compensable when diagnosed after a specific period of employment.” This bill also addresses cardiovascular disease.The same day, WorkCompCentral reported that Maryland is considering a bill to expand its firefighter cancer presumption. This would “add bladder, kidney or renal cell cancer to the list of diseases presumed to be compensable for firefighters.” The article notes Maryland presumptions already “include throat and lung (cancer) because of the smoke conditions.”And, Texas is reportedly considering legislation to clarify its firefighter presumption law. WorkCompCentral reports that the law is considered “murky.” According to the story, “insurers say (the law) limits firefighters to just three types of malignancies, but fire workers say already includes most types of cancer.” Employees are seeking better enforcement of compensability decisions, and employers are seeking clarity of the law’s scope.Recently, a California jury awarded $29 million to a woman for cancer it related to the use of baby powder. The American Cancer Society notes that some talcum powder contains asbestos, and warns that inhaling asbestos-laced powder can cause cancer. Its’ website is more circumspect regarding talcum powder and cancer: “The evidence about asbestos-free talc is less clear.” Thus, there seems some potential for debate regarding this causative link.The Environmental Protection Agency has recently banned the sale of Methylene Chloride, according to WebMD. It notes that this chemical compound can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, and “over the long term it increases the risk of cancer.” Despite those warnings, the EPA ban only affects consumer purchasing. The chemical will still be obtainable for commercial applications. It is estimated that some “32,000 workers use methylene chloride at work. New Jersey attorney Jon Gelman has addressed this substance in his blog.Back in California, The Telegraph reports Bayer (which purchased Monsanto in 2015) was found responsible by a jury that concluded “glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” Notably, the plaintiff had “sprayed the herbicide on his property for decades.” According to the Chicago Tribune, there is disagreement about glyphosphate. On one hand “Monsanto says studies have established that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is safe,” and “many government regulators have rejected a link between cancer and glyphosate.”
The manufacturer claims that “hundreds of studies have established that the chemical is safe.” However, the jury concluded otherwise, finding “using Roundup was a significant factor in his cancer.” The recent trial there was in federal court, suggesting that the science that was presented by both plaintiff and defense was subject to the Daubert standard discussed in Dissing Daubert, Daubert Better Explained, and Daubert, We Barely Knew Ye.Thus, there are questions about what does and does not cause cancer, causation issues. There may be issues as to how long after some exposure cancer will appear, latency issues. There may be occupations in which exposure to various chemicals and compounds is more or less likely. There may be variables such as the degree of exposure, intensity of exposure, use of safety equipment, and more. In total, there may be more questions about cancer than answers.The legislative efforts seem focused only upon firefighters, and yet a great many questions appear unanswered. Is there justification in tiered recovery systems that treat some workers differently than others? Is there recent science, as suggested by the Ontario Director, that antiquates existing workers’ compensation decision making? If so, where is that science? So many questions.
The following story is indicative of a system that is totally broken when Case Managers, DRDRB are understaffed, under trained and do not have time to make reasonable and correct decisions, thus leading to simply denying a claim or benefits forcing workers to appeal decisions that overload the Appeals Commission who then take months or years to provide a decision. This is not expedience which is one of the four fundamental principles of the workers compensation system. Undoubtedly this will get worse as the new legislation and policy comes into effect with many Case Managers not being aware of the major changes although most Case Managers, DRDRB and the Appeals Commissioners have no expertise in law or medicine and do not know how to interpret the old and existing legislation and policies. The whole system is nothing more than a gong show.
Workers’ Compensation workers from across Canada meet to discuss crushing workloads and the need for sweeping reforms for mental health injuries
Sep. 24, 2018, 02:37 PM
NIAGARA FALLS, ON, Sept. 24, 2018 /CNW/ – Representatives of the major unions representing Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) workers in Canada met to discuss issues that impact injured workers, employers and employees of workers compensation boards.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) represent Workers’ Compensation employees in Canada’s ten provinces and three territories.
The conference focused on two primary issues affecting employees of WCB’s and injured workers alike. Sadly, unreasonable workloads are experienced by workers in multiple sectors across Canada. No one is immune from the negative health impacts of heavy workloads.
All employers including Canada’s Workers Compensation Boards have very specific legal duties to protect workers under health and safety legislation. Union representatives hold the view that “excessive workload” is a serious health and safety issue negatively affecting employee mental and physical well being.
The unions have decided to hold their respective Provincial Legislative bodies accountable for the lack of safeguards designed to protect working people from the devastating impact of excessive workload. Each compensation organization is full of talented professional staff that routinely put in more than an honest day’s work.
“It is inexcusable that staff are prevented from doing the kind of job that they are capable of because of employer indifference to creating manageable workloads.” said Tamara Elisseou president of CUPE 1866.
Lloyd Samson, president of Local 55 of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) said, “We want to ensure that the system remains focused on safety and prevention but ensures comprehensive and fair coverage for injured workers.”
Debbie Wallace, president of Local 2180 of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) said, “It is important that the views of the workers who are expected to operate the system be heard and respected. We are the workers who know where the system is flawed and how it could be improved for all workers in all sectors.”
“We leave this conference with the view that Provincial Governments must expand existing compensation legislation to help those suffering from the effects of work overload. Governments must also take tangible steps to strengthen prevention and enforcement in order to better protect the well being of all workers,” said CUPE 1750 president Harry Goslin of Ontario and host of the event.
SOURCE Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
This is a media item that gives a good sense of the human reality in Peterborough right now. With a tremendous collective effort by many people who worked at GE, their families and many activists and supporters, a significant number of claims have been won. But even more have been denied on reconsideration. So there is much work to do.
Alberta WCB is still broken Bill 30 did nothing to help long term claims. Alberta injured workers do not have the support , manpower or finances to get out there and let the public know the suffering never ends.
For injured workers the reality is clear, the WSIB in Ontario is broken and the loss and pain is on the backs of injured workers.
So every June 1, injured workers and their allies rally at Queen’s Park for Injured Workers Day, to highlight the flaws of the compensation system and the fight we need to continue to bring to the Legislature and the Ministry of Labour.
With just a few days before the election, the rally and march is an opportunity to make a stand, not only for injured workers but for all workers and people concerned about social and economic justice, that we have had enough of austerity and cuts. The rally on June 1, will send a message that no matter who gets elected, the age of austerity is over.
We can be sure that if Doug Ford’s Conservative Party is elected, privatization of the workers’ compensation system will be on his agenda – just as he will push for privatization across the board. We know that if this happens, it is low-income, vulnerable, and marginalized people who will suffer. So the Injured Workers’ Day rally is part of the fightback. We will stand up and resist, and take back our compensation system
On the eve of June 1, the Women of Inspiration, a group which offers support, knowledge transfer, education and outreach to Women Injured at Work, gathers on the lawn of Queen’s Park for “Sleepless in Queen’s Park.” This overnight vigil provides a safe space for injured workers to share poetry and song, and to tell stories of their battles for fair compensation because, if “injured workers can’t sleep; how can their elected representatives?”
On the following day of June 1 at 11:30am, injured workers and advocates join the Women of Inspiration at Queen’s Park to rally for Injured Worker’s Day. Joined by labour and community allies, injured workers from across Ontario will take to the streets, marching on the Ministry of Labour, calling on the government to deliver fairness from the workers’ compensation system.
In its 35th year, the theme for this year’s Injured Workers Day is driven by the success and hard work of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONIWG). ONIWG is an umbrella organization of injured worker groups in communities spread throughout the province, campaigning on the theme that Workers’ Comp is a Right. This campaign is demanding the compensation system return to its roots as a system that provides support and support and care for workers who have suffered injuries or illnesses on the job. The key campaign demands for a system that protects everyone are:
- No cuts based on phantom jobs
2. Listen to injured workers’ treating healthcare professionals
3. Stop cutting benefits based on pre-existing conditions
Through province-wide education and action on these issues, injured workers have successfully pushed their demands onto the political radar. We have collected thousands of petition signatures supporting the campaign demands, and heard MPPs read out the petition dozens of times in the Legislature. We have seen the NDP include injured worker issues in its platform – the first time since 1990 that a political Party has talked explicitly about injured workers. We have seen new injured worker groups form in communities where they did not previously exist.
So we are building. And after years of austerity and cuts, the compensation system is broken and the time is now to pressure those in power to commit to fundamental changes to restore justice. Join us.
The ONIWG Research Action Committee has put together a one page handout in advance of June 1st, Injured Workers Day. This infographic is based on research done by our committee as well as academic research. Over the last seven years, the Ontario WSIB has more than doubled its reserved funds while cutting benefits to workers in half – resulting in thousands of workers with a life long work related disability ending up in poverty.
We encourage you to share this info widely – to friends, family and co-workers – and use it as a handout on June 1st. It can be used as a stand alone piece or you can print it two sided with the Workers Comp is a Right material or local information.
From The Lawyer’s Daily:
Ontario Court of Appeal okays class action against WSIB (February 16, 2017)
Click on the following link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/
Just as I predicted, sometime in the near future, providing presumptive status for any occupation rather than all occupations is discrimination and would come back and bite the goofs that voted for and passed legislation for firefighters, then extended this presumption to first responders. There is and never has been any evidence that firefighters or first responders have any higher risk than any other occupation when compared to the general public which is how epidemiological evidence is gathered and is why the National Academy of Science does not or will not use the general public as a reference in determining causation.
Seems like Ontario always has to lead the way as the people we elect to represent us in Alberta must have fallen off a turnip truck. While I am a born and raised in Alberta resident, my question to the Government is why is it that Alberta is not leading the way in workers compensation issues rather than being the follower even going so far as to adopt the Meredith Principles which initiated in Ontario. Perhaps, the Alberta Government would simply rescind all legislation providing differential treatment to one group of workers and bring in legislation providing presumptive status in all claims for all workers and force WCB to prove contrary which is the way that it was intended to be right from the beginning according to Dr. Terrance Ison who before his death was Canada’s leading expert in workers compensation issues.