A Provincial Workers’ Compensation Board required detailed historical occupational exposure information on a deceased worker. This worker had died of lung disease, and although he had smoked heavily his entire life, his spouse was claiming that workplace exposures were the cause of his lung disease and subsequent death. The WCB did not have sufficient information about the types of exposures that this worker would have experienced in his 27 years of employment as a Town Foreman.
The WCB was not in a position to make an informed decision on whether the death was work-related. Although the Town was being cooperative, they had never implemented a formal safety program, and had little to no documentation of relevant activities and exposures that they could provide for review. The Compensation Board’s internal investigation team was not skilled in occupational exposure assessments.
We implemented the following approach in collecting information and assisting the WCB with this difficult Claim:
- Review of the job description for the Town Foreman position.
- Detailed assessment of all fixed locations where the deceased employee would have worked.
- Interview with the deceased worker’s spouse to gather detail on any specific exposures that may have motivated the filing of the WCB Claim.
- Interviews with co-workers, with the new Town Foreman, and with Supervisors and Managers.
- Telephone contact and interviews with two retired employees who had worked at the town for the same duration as the deceased worker.
- Investigation and verification of anecdotal evidence of any occupationally significant exposures.
- Review of all historical documentation that was found on site.
- Review of usage for all types of chemicals and chemical containers that were found in old Town buildings and in storage areas that were no longer in use.
- Collection of detailed chemical names and material safety data sheets for all complex chemicals to which the employee was exposed.
- Detailed description of work practices, chemical and physical substance exposures, and qualitative exposure information.
- Redundancy in the form of duplicate evidence or, where possible, verification with Town Management was used to ensure that an accurate report of historical exposures was provided.
The WCB Occupational Physician was able to make an informed recommendation on whether the Claim should be accepted. In a difficult and sensitive situation, we had provided the level of detail needed by the Client on the full spectrum of occupational exposures that the deceased employee would have experienced.
The Town, its current and former employees, and the deceased worker’s spouse all felt that the project was performed respectfully and tactfully, and appreciated that they had the opportunity to contribute. A high quality, detailed assessment was performed cost-effectively with only 9 hours spent on site. The project objectives were met, and the final report was perceived as thorough, complete and accurate by both the Town and the WCB.