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By WSIB   

Ontario workers compensation board driving awareness of occupational cancer

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The WSIB has longstanding experience adjudicating claims for work-related cancers and other occupational diseases and helping those people and families affected.

In 2023 alone, the WSIB approved over 23,000 occupational disease claims* and provided $79.5 million in benefits and supports to those affected. Of these, 329 claims were for work-related cancers, making up $32.7 million of the benefits paid – almost half of the total paid for all occupational disease claims.  

To continue to help even more people with work-related cancer, the WSIB needs them to be aware that their illness may have been caused because of their work. This is why increasing awareness of occupational diseases is an area the WSIB has championed.

“One of the biggest barriers for us in providing care and support for people with occupational cancer is the fact that affected people and their health care providers often do not make the connection that their disease may be work-related,” says Dr. Aaron Thompson, WSIB’s Chief Medical Officer. “It’s important for physicians to consider potential occupational causes when someone gets a cancer diagnosis. If workplace exposures caused someone’s cancer, they need to be made aware and encouraged to submit a claim to the WSIB.”

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To help remedy this lack of awareness, the WSIB funds the Workplace Health Champions Program for Ontario’s six medical schools to ensure medical students are trained in important aspects of occupational medicine so they can recognize when an illness might be traced back to work.

People often wonder how the WSIB can determine if a person’s cancer is work-related. “One of the most difficult aspects of occupational disease adjudication is putting together the puzzle of past exposures and how they may relate to a person’s disease,” says Sal Cavaricci, WSIB Senior Director, Operations. “These claims can be quite complex, but we have well established frameworks and technical expertise for these difficult cases.” The adjudicative team for occupational disease includes well-trained adjudicators supported by highly skilled occupational hygienists and occupational medicine specialist physicians.

Ultimately, the WSIB’s goal is to improve awareness and earlier identification of occupational diseases. If someone believes their cancer may be work-related, they may be eligible for services and support so they should contact the WSIB.  

“They don’t have to worry if they’re not sure their illness resulted from their work,” says Cavaricci. “That’s our job. It’s always the WSIB’s responsibility to gather all of the relevant information to determine whether someone’s illness is work-related.”  

Possible work-related claims should always be reported. There is no time limit for submitting an occupational disease claim given the time that can elapse between an exposure at the workplace and the onset of an illness. 

 People can find information about occupational diseases and how to file a claim on the WSIB website – Occupational disease | WSIB

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