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Heavily Medicated & Expected To Work

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Under both “The Occupational Health & Safety Act”, and  “Bill C-45” (an Act that amends The Criminal Code in Canada), employers are required to practice proper “due diligence” in the workplace. That is to say that under these laws, it's the statutory duty of all employers to provide healthy and safe work conditions. In the event they do not, they can be held liable for any and all injuries, and subject to the following penalties:

 

Under OH&S legislation:

 

  • An offence resulting in death or serious injury to a worker can result in a fine not exceeding $300,000 and a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years  

Under the Criminal Code:

 

  • An offence resulting in bodily harm can result in unlimited fines or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years
  • An offence resulting in death can result in unlimited fines or imprisonment for life  

Below is the story of an injured worker who despite the impairing side effects of his medication (Morphine), WCB has deemed him capable of full-time work, and significantly reduced his benefits. Clearly no employer can hire this man due to obvious safety risks, and the aforementioned legislation/penalties.

 

If you're an injured worker in this situation, please feel free to contact me. I have additional information that will stop such deeming, and assist you in recovering past deductions in this respect. In certain situations either myself, or the injured worker/advocate mentioned below will appeal this issue on your behalf.

 

( SUCCESS! Be sure to read the updates following this story)

 

 

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The StarPhoenix

Worker, WCB continue compensation battle for 30 years

Lana Haight, The StarPhoenix

Published: Saturday, November 01, 2008

An injured Saskatoon man off work for more than 30 years and addicted to pain medication paid for by the Workers' Compensation Board can't believe the board expects him to find a job.

 

"I would be a danger to myself and others," said Ron Lewis, who takes several doses of prescribed morphine each day.

 

"No employer in his right mind would dare to employ a person this medicated."

 

In 1975, Lewis was working for Western Producer Prairie Books in the shipping/receiving department when he slipped on some ice while carrying a loaded box. He was just days away from being promoted to a management position when the accident happened.

 

That Lewis suffered a back injury while at work has never been disputed by Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board (WCB). How much that injury affects his ability to work has been an issue for debate for decades. For the past 30 years, Lewis has fought the board, which maintains he is capable of working a minimum wage job.

 

In May 1997, a panel of three doctors determined Lewis was "unfit for employment." Yet the medical review panel ruled only five per cent of Lewis' impairment was the result of his fall.

 

"A large part of his inability to work is due to his fixed idea that he is unable to work. His inability to work is also compounded by chronic pain syndrome resulting from Lewis' psychological state, a congenital deformity of his lower limbs, multiple surgeries, drug abuse and his back injury", says the certificate of the medical review panel.

 

Lewis applied to Queen's Bench for another review panel to be convened. His request was granted in March 2004, but workers' compensation appealed the Queen's Bench decision. In May 2005, the Court of Appeal decided Lewis was not entitled to another medical review panel.

 

Now Lewis, who receives about $300 a month from the board, is taking another stab at trying to get full compensation, based on his dependence on narcotics paid for by the compensation board. While he takes issue with the term "drug abuse" used by the panel, he maintains even the doctors reviewing his case recognized the narcotics contribute to his inability to work. He argues the compensation board wouldn't be paying for the heavy doses of morphine if the narcotic wasn't needed to control pain caused by his work-related injury.

 

But the compensation board sees things differently.

 

"The WCB has chosen to assist Mr. Lewis by paying the full costs of drugs related to treatment of his chronic pain syndrome. The alternative would be to only pay a small percentage of the drug costs, which would have meant that Mr. Lewis would not have been able to afford to purchase the prescriptions," wrote Janice Siekawitch, director of planning and communication at Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board.

 

Lewis signed a form giving the compensation board permission to discuss his case with The StarPhoenix. Siekawitch declined being interviewed over the telephone.

 

"We want to be taking extra care that I, in a conversation with a reporter, in an interview with a reporter, don't inadvertently share something, information or something, that is harmful to Mr. Lewis at the end of the day," she said, explaining why she would only provide answers in writing to questions submitted by e-mail.

 

The most recent correspondence from workers' compensation contains false information, says Lewis.

 

In a letter dated Oct. 21, a team leader with the organization says the medical review panel "concluded that Mr. Lewis was fit for suitable employment" even though he was on high levels of medication at the time.

 

Siekawitch repeated, in her e-mail, that the review panel found Lewis "fit for suitable employment."

 

Nowhere in the panel's certificate, provided by Lewis to The StarPhoenix, does it say he is "fit for suitable employment."

 

In fact, the medical review panel certificate states "the worker is unfit for employment."

 

Lewis' assertion that he is unable to work is backed by his family doctor.

 

"Due to the type of medication (Lewis) takes and large amounts of pain medication that he is prescribed, he could pose a risk to himself and to others. These prescriptions are intended to help him be able to function in the basic activities of life," wrote Dr. Roy Chernoff, in a letter to the Workers' Compensation Board.

 

"It is my belief that Ron is not employable and could not function properly in any work setting."

 

Lewis is pinning his hopes on Occupational Health and Safety legislation requiring employers use "due diligence" in the workplace. He is getting help with his latest petition to the compensation board.

 

"They wouldn't be paying for medication if it wasn't for the injury. They know how much medication Ron takes because they are paying for it. They knew full well under the due diligence laws that no one can hire Ron and they've known it all these years," said Jim Taphorn, who is advocating on behalf of Lewis.

 

Taphorn says it's not Lewis' injury alone, but the back pain combined with the high doses of morphine, that makes him unemployable.

 

Chernoff makes the same argument in his letter to the compensation board.

 

"An employer using due diligence when hiring would have to realize that high amounts of medication that can be sedating and are used to treat chronic pain could pose a risk to the prospective employee, others working with the prospective employee as well as clients within their particular industry. This would exclude Ron from any type of gainful employment," wrote the family doctor.

 

Taphorn, who is fighting his own battle with the compensation board, says he knows at least nine other men in Saskatchewan who are trying to get full compensation because their high doses of pain medication would make them a danger in the workplace.

 

He estimates Lewis is owed $247,000 in unpaid compensation, money that could have been spent providing a decent life for his wife and two children.

 

"I believe there is a lot of merit in my case. I want justice," said Lewis, who will now take his decades-long fight directly to the Workers' Compensation Board members.

 

lhaight@sp.canwest.com

 

The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2008 

  

UPDATE:

 

Of significance, I recently acquired a copy of the WCB “Code of Conduct and Ethics”. It should be noted that all WCB employees are required to review, and sign this 22-page document/agreement. It’s an interesting read to say the very least.

 

Of particular interest is the section regarding “Drugs & Alcohol in the Workplace” (page 17 below). As indicated WCB has a zero-tolerance policy in this respect, which raises 2 fundamental questions:

 

1.      If, for safety reasons, WCB will not employ individuals under the influence of drugs, on what grounds would it expect other employers to take such safety risks?

2.      On what grounds would WCB expect other employers to risk liability under Occupational Health & Safety and Bill C-45 legislation?

 

Like other provinces, Saskatchewan’s “Occupational Health & Safety Division” is funded through WCB. As such, the board is well aware of OH&S and Bill C-45 legislation. Furthermore there’s a comprehensive article regarding “due diligence” on WCB’s website, which fully explains this legislation (see link below). 

 

In other words WCB is well aware of legislation that deters employers from hiring/employing heavily medicated workers, yet it continues to deem heavily medicated claimants as “employable”. The only conclusion one can draw from this is that WCB is intentionally defrauding these claimants of wage loss entitlement.

 

To the best of my knowledge no one has taken WCB to task over this issue until now. Ultimately injured workers in this situation should strike while this iron is hot. 

wcbcodeofconductpg17.jpg

Click the link below to view the "WCB Code of Conduct and Ethics" in its entirety:

Click here

 
Click the link below to view "Due Diligence in the Workplace" (from the website of Saskatchewan WCB):

Click Here

 
UPDATE: Success!
 

In August 2009 OHS Canada – a national Occupational Health & Safety magazine –interviewed Jim and I, and subsequently published an article (you’ll find a link to it below). Among the concerns I had raised was when cases involving heavily-medicated workers are won, Saskatchewan WCB refuses to acknowledge what, if any part safety played in its decision.

 

In August 2010 OHS Canada published a follow-up article, and with it came renewed frustration in this regard (you’ll find this article below as well). It seems that other boards – namely WorkSafe BC and WSIB – are also intent on evading the issue of medication/workplace safety. Of significance, both these boards have policies limiting their coverage of certain narcotics, but both cite health concerns (addiction) as the primary reason.

 

If you walk away with anything from these articles it should be the underlying reason why WCB avoids this issue. For years these boards have deemed heavily-medicated workers “fit for employment”, and significantly reduced their benefits. In many instances they’ve done this knowing no one can safely employ them due to OHS legislation, and possible repercussions under The Criminal Code of Canada (Bill C-45).

 

As previously indicated, these are grounds for successfully appealing such wage deeming. WCB knows this, hence the reason it sidesteps the issue. With the exception of 2 cases where appeals were improperly prepared, I’ve yet to learn of a denial in this respect. If someone knows of such an instance, feel free to contact me I might be of some assistance.
 
 

Click here to view the August 2009 article

Click here to view the August 2010 article

 

 

All My Websites:

 

“WCB: Your Right To Sue” – Click here

 

Saskatchewan WCB Breach Of Privacy” – Click here 

 

“The Saskatchewan Party: Broken Promises & Cover-ups” – Click here 

 

"Appealing the Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board" – Click here 

 

 
Related "YouTube" video
 

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