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Few B.C. workers get compensation for catching COVID-19 on the job

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
March 18, 2021 - 6:00 PM

With 30 to 40 per cent of new COVID-19 cases being transmitted in workplaces in January, one might think that WorkSafeBC would be flooded with claims for compensation.

That has not happened.

“About 30 per cent, 40 per cent of the cases we are seeing right now are related to workplaces,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a Jan. 29 news conference. “It’s not so much the public interface. We’re not seeing it in people who are shopping at Costco.

“Where we’re seeing it is in people who are working together. We see, for example, a number of food processing plants where we’ve had high numbers of people (infected).”

It doesn’t appear many of those workers are filing compensation claims.

Out of 4,218 claims filed for COVID-19 with WorkSafeBC as of March 11, only 45 are in the Manufacturing-Food and Beverage Products classification.

On March 11, Dr. Henry made further comments about the need to use newly approved vaccines in workplaces.

“Right now, with this limited amount (of vaccines) that we got in this week, we have made the decision, here in B.C., to target the areas where we are confident we can make the most difference in protecting our communities and that is around workplaces where we’re seeing clusters and outbreaks and high risk workplaces,” she said, again mentioning food processing plants where people work closely together and where personal protective equipment and barriers aren’t always practical.

Between the time those two comments were made by Dr. Henry, there have been more than 22,000 new COVID-19 cases.

Taking the low range of 30 per cent, that would be 6,600 cases in workplaces.

On top of that, there have been more than 90,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. If 30 per cent were in workplaces, that would translate into 27,000 WorkSafeBC claims, which has not happened.

“WorkSafeBC becomes aware of a case of COVID-19 when a claim is filed,” WorkSafeBC said in an email to iNFOnews.ca. “We cannot comment on the number of COVID-19 claims filed compared to COVID-19 cases in general.”

That’s not to say they don’t welcome claims.

“If you contracted COVID-19 and believe you contracted it at work, you are encouraged to report the claim to determine if you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits,” WorkSafeBC says on its website.

There are, of course, rules about who qualifies for compensation.

In order to be accepted, a worker has to provide “sufficient evidence” that they had COVID-19 and “the risk in the workplace was significantly higher than the ordinary exposure risk,” the email said.

People won’t be compensated if they refuse to work out of fear of getting COVID or if they are in quarantine but government assistance programs don’t prevent them from being eligible. You can find more information here.

Of the 4,218 claims filed, only 3,698 have reached the point where WorkSafeBC has made a ruling. Since claims take 20 days or more to process, some are still pending.

Some were not processed because of things like a lack of evidence of infection, incomplete paperwork or if workers went off just as a preventative measure.

Of those that went to the decision making stage, 2,631, or 71 per cent, were accepted.

By far, the largest number of claims filed, with 2,512, was in the Service-Health Care and Social Services sector

Far behind, in second place, is the Service-Education sector with 265.

In a different part of the report, WorkSafeBC breaks those classifications down into different categories.

Of the 3,698 claims that went to the decision making level, 859 were nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates. Five-hundred and sixty-one were listed as registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, while 311 were licensed practical nurses. That totals 1,711, or 46 per cent of all claims.

There are a number of other health care sector categories with smaller numbers of claims.

Teachers and teaching assistants accounted for 133 of the claims. There is no listing in that part of the report for food processing plants.

See more data here.

READ MORE: WorkSafeBC dealt with more than 4,000 COVID-19 claims

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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