ISSUE 2009-08: July 22, 2009

In This Issue

Mental Stress


Implications for School Districts


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Refusal of Unsafe Work Flow Chart

Copies of all the WorkSafeBC forms can be found here



If you have questions about the issues raised in this newsletter, or any health, safety or wellness issue, please contact Mark Grabas at 604.730.4509 or markg@bcpsea.bc.ca

Mental Stress

On April 30, 2009, the B.C. Court of Appeal released its decision in Plesner v. British Columbia (Hydro and Power Authority), [2009] B.C.J. No. 856 (C.A.). This case involved a constitutional challenge to the mental stress provisions found in section 5.1 of the Workers Compensation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 492 (the “Act”) and Policy Item 13.30 (the “Policy”) of the Rehabilitation Services and Claims Manual, Volume II (“RS&CM”).

The majority of the B.C. Court of Appeal declared that portions of the Policy were to be of no force and effect. The portions of the Policy that were struck out as unconstitutional were those that were used to, first, provide guidance on what qualifies as a traumatic event and, second, state that only mental stress arising from “severely emotionally disturbing” events was compensable.

Pursuant to that decision, at its meeting on July 14, 2009, the Board of Directors approved changes to the Policy. The key changes to the policy follow the direction provided by the B.C. Court of Appeal. Specifically:

  • Consistent with the decision in the Plesner v. BC Hydro and Power Authority et al, 2009 BCCA 188, a number of policy statements and all examples were severed.
  • Inclusion of a definition of a traumatic event as “an emotionally shocking event”, which reflects both the Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, 24th Edition and The Concise Oxford Dictionary definitions of traumatic.
  • A reference was inserted that states an acute reaction may be delayed in certain circumstances, in keeping with the accepted diagnostic features of mental stress.

The policy changes apply to all decisions, including appellate decisions, on or after April 30, 2009, the date of the B.C. Court of Appeal decision. To review the complete resolution and policy amendments, please use this link.

Implications for School Districts

The most immediate effect of this decision is that it broadens the analysis when considering the acceptability of mental stress claims by WorkSafeBC. This has the potential to not only increase the number of claims accepted for mental stress but also the number of people applying.

The significance of this can be realized when considering the statistics recently released by the BCTF.

  • 70% of SIP costs are for psychological/psychiatric disorders
  • In the BCTF Rehabilitation Program, psychological/psychiatric disorders represent 43% of total claims and 47% of total costs
  • 2007/2008 school year there were 389 SIP claims for psychological/psychiatric disorders that cost almost $3,500,000.

The true implications of the policy change will not be fully appreciated until WorkSafeBC has had an opportunity to train staff and apply the policy over a period of time.

Should you require any assistance with these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Mark Grabas – markg@bcpsea.bc.ca

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