Report urges WSIB to improve evidence-based decision-making in workplace cancer claims

WSIB should update policies on adjudicating cancer claims to reflect scientific knowledge: report

Report urges WSIB to improve evidence-based decision-making in workplace cancer claims

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board can enhance its evidence-based decision-making relating to occupational cancer claims by updating its list of presumptions regarding cancer in accordance with current scientific knowledge, states a recent report.

Schedules 3 and 4 of Ontario Regulation 175/98, which set out these presumptive lists, should be based on exposure to carcinogenic agents or processes, instead of being based on specific employers, to have a broader scope, says the report titled Using scientific evidence and principles to help determine the work-relatedness of cancer by Dr. Paul Demers, director of the Occupational Cancer Research Centre in Toronto.

Demers recommends the use of three standards: evidence of a strong causal link between the disease and occupational exposure, clear diagnostic criteria for any disease which is included in a scheduled list and the fact that the occupational disease makes up a considerable proportion of the overall cases of the disease in the exposed population.

The WSIB should likewise update its policies relating to the adjudication of cancer claims in accordance with the scientific knowledge we have today, Demers also said. The report singles out certain areas which would be particularly benefited by the formulation of new policies.Demers also suggested that the WSIB launch a standing Scientific Review Panel comprising independent scientists who are experienced in a wide array of areas such as epidemiology, toxicology, occupational medicine and occupational hygiene. This panel’s duties will include reviewing and approving scientific reports, recommending amendments to schedules and policies and helping out with choosing external consultants and researchers.The independent review undertaken by Demers resulted from a request by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development back in January 2019. The ministry asked for the following questions to be addressed: how scientific evidence can be best utilized to determine the issue of work-relatedness in relation to occupational cancer claims especially in cases involving multiple exposures and whether there are any suggested scientific principles or best practices from other jurisdictions for Ontario to consider.The issue of occupational cancer has been increasingly publicized through media reports calling attention to the connection between exposure to workplace carcinogens and cancer, the report says. “Based on our current knowledge of the causes of cancer, it is estimated that approximately half of all cancer is preventable,” states the report. “While there is still much that we do not know about the causes of cancer, many workplace carcinogens have been identified.”

“The report confirms what workers afflicted by cancer and other occupational illnesses have long believed: that only a fraction of those made sick by their workplace receive compensation through WSIB,” said Van Dyke Law in a blog post.

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