Workplace Safety and Insurance Board Issues at the OPFFA Seminar

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At the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association seminar that presented subject matter ranging from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (our WCB) to contract issues, public relations and a host of other topics, I attended primarily WSIB discussions.

While our systems differ somewhat it was interesting to hear and discuss how many issues transcend the provincial border. It demonstrated that we are not alone in our disagreement with decisions that are handed down on claims filed.

Some of the studies used in our push for Presumptive Legislation came from Ontario and yet Manitoba fire fighters are covered for seven cancers more than Ontario. This alone speaks to the success achieved by our proactive public relations. As you’ve heard many times, so much is achieved through politics and this is no exception. We should keep this in mind!

The occupational diseases tracked by the OPFFA were compared to the frequency found in the general population and some numbers were staggering and the research and number crunching is continuing. While the general population sees lung cancer at rates of 82 per 100,000 people, in fire fighters the frequency number soars to 488 per 100,000.

Prostate cancer in the general population is 106 per 100,000 and 630 per 100,000 in fire fighters, colon cancer 129 for the general population and 767 per 100,000 fire fighters. (Note, these findings are from an Ontario only study.)

The WSIB is in a cash crunch and the OPFFA is working hard for their membership, as they know benefit suppression is one place the government can try to save money. The backlog in claims adjudication grows everyday and Ontario workers compensation is also looking at introducing electronic claims adjudication (read – cost savings). Basically a worker would check off boxes on an online form and at the end you would be informed whether or not your claim will be accepted. While this system may have shortcomings, if implemented, the sharing of ideas and lessons learned from others is invaluable.

In closing I would like to say thank you to the members of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg and the UFFW Executive for the opportunity to attend this event.