COVID ‘Caught on the Job’ and WorksafeBC

Source: BC Landscape Nursery Association

A very concerning issue has arisen when employees report they have contracted COVID-19 while at work, which then becomes a WSBC claim. Doug Alley, Manager Director of The Employer’s Forum has advised that employers should appeal all COVID claims.

This email from Doug alerting members of the Forum (BCAC is a member) describes the issue:

“I thought it was important for you to see a series of emails between me and the Claims Division at WSBC.  At this point in time, we are recommending you appeal any and every claim that is not being adjudicated in accordance with proper guidelines…”  

From: Doug Alley
Sent: January 26, 2022 2:22 PM
Subject: RE: COVID-19 questions

Thank you for your response.  Our members are very aware of the Omicron variant and how easily it spreads in the community.  That is the point.  It is transmitted in the community.  Our members are following all health orders, and in many cases exceeding what is required.  Yet, claims are still being accepted based on what the worker says with no medical evidence at all and any information from the employer is excluded.  WSBC needs to adjudicate based on community at large vs the workplace. There should be a required test- the positively rate of testing at it’s peak in the last week of December/first week of January was 24% and is decreasing.  This means 76% of cases are not COVID; so WSBC has at least a 3 out of 4 chance of granting a claim for non COVID illness if they don’t have a positive test to prove it.  We believe a PCR test is needed as a minimum.   

In order to be compensable, a worker must demonstrate they have a differential of risk due to their work. At her briefing on January 21, Dr. Henry indicated a significant shift in philosophy to address COVID in a manner similar to other respiratory illnesses – influenza, or RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), or enteroviruses that cause the common cold. This is what we are dealing with, and we expect the Board to fulfill its fiduciary duty to adjudicate and pay for claims that are work related.   

We want to be explicitly clear. We expect WSBC to thoroughly adjudicate every COVID claim. This includes providing positive diagnosis, without fail. There are a myriad of other respiratory infections that can mimic COVID and we believe it entirely inconsistent with the Act for employers to pay for non-occupational diseases in the workers compensation system.     

Workers with a higher risk of occupational exposure CAN be tested, and we expect this is a minimum baseline for adjudication. Please see   

• Healthcare workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities or in a clinic in the community 
• First responders (i.e., police officer, emergency medical technician /paramedic, or firefighter)
• Staff and residents in congregate settings, such as long-term care facilities, shelters, correctional facilities and group homes
• Communities  that  are  far  from  testing  centres  and  hospitals,  such  as  rural,  remote,  or  Indigenous communities, or work camps 

We expect that every decision maker will  clearly  and objectively  state  the  evidence  weighed  and  analytical method  used  to  deter mine  the  differential  in risk. 

We have  been consistent  in  our position;  the  employer  community  is  responsible  to  pay  for  workcaused disability. We  are  not,  and  will  vigorously  oppose,  any  payment  for  disability  arising  from  illness  /  disease not  contrac ted  as  a  result  of employment.         

We look  forward  to  discussing  this further. 

Doug  Alley
Managing  Director
The  Employers' Forum