Canadian Manufacturing

WSIB says Ontarians who catch COVID-19 at work can make claims with rapid tests or medical notes

The board has allowed 31,363 claims related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began and denied 2,257 claims.

January 28, 2022   The Canadian Press

Ontarians who suspect they caught COVID-19 at work can make claims with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board even without a positive result from a PCR test now that the gold-standard assessment tool is no longer available to most residents.

A top executive with the board says, however, that individuals should still try to get a medical opinion or rapid test to confirm their infection.

“Our approach hasn’t changed too dramatically,” said Scott Bujeya, chief operations officer with the board, which supports those injured at work. “The information gathering that we’re doing is very similar to what we would have been doing pre-Omicron.”

The province announced late last year that it was limiting access to PCR tests to certain high-risk groups in light of a massive surge in cases of the Omicron variant.

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Bujeya said in an interview that those trying to file WSIB claims related to COVID-19 wouldn’t be out of luck without a rapid test or doctor’s note, but the board “would certainly encourage” them to speak with a medical professional through a virtual walk-in or telephone appointment.

If that’s not possible, other factors are considered when probing a claim, Bujeya said. For example, investigators will look at whether the workplace is considered high-risk, if other workers have become sick with COVID-19 or if the individual’s household members have also come down with the illness. The process also involves getting statements from the worker and employer.

“We encourage anybody who believes they might have contracted COVID at work to file a claim with us and then allow us to make the appropriate inquiries to establish whether that’s in fact the case,” he said.

The board has allowed 31,363 claims related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began and denied 2,257 claims. Almost a third of allowed claims have come from nursing homes and other residential care settings. Hospitals, agriculture and manufacturing workplaces also represent large portions of the total.

There were 5,265 claims pending as of Jan. 21.

Bujeya said the board compensates individuals for lost wages and helps them access treatment. Typically, people infected with COVID-19 on the job have returned to work within 30 days, he said, though some have required support for longer.

There have been new concerns about how the claims process will work, however, now that many people aren’t able to confirm that they had the virus at all, let alone where they caught it.

Top public health officials have said people with common symptoms should assume they have the virus and isolate rather than seek testing as capacity has been strained due to Omicron’s rapid spread.

Bujeya said the board is still receiving claims from people who confirmed their infections earlier or who work in jobs like long-term care where PCR tests are still available.