WBC investigators slapped down, again

Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board has been ordered to reinstate benefits to a miner injured in an explosion more than 20 years ago.

Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board has been ordered to reinstate benefits to a miner injured in an explosion more than 20 years ago.

It’s the second time in a row that the appeals tribunal has ruled against the board.

In its 76-page report, the tribunal rejected the findings of the investigator who accused the worker of providing false and misleading information to the board, which rescinded the unnamed worker’s benefits last year.

In December 1991, the worker suffered a host of injuries when the bunkhouse he was sleeping in exploded. The blast, caused by a faulty propane furnace, destroyed part of the building and threw the worker into a “wall of snow and ice.”

When he came to, he was buried under snow and a section of bunkhouse roof and had to dig himself out.

The head and spinal injuries he suffered from the explosion left him in chronic pain, caused cognitive impairments, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. He was unable to return to work as a miner.

Both his father and former common-law partner testified that the worker is a “mere shadow” of the person he was before the accident.

The tribunal found that over the last 20 years, the worker has been assessed numerous times by several different medical professionals resulting in differing diagnoses. Very little rehabilitation was offered or carried out and his benefits were suspended several times due to alleged non-compliance.

He was also put under surveillance twice: first by a private investigator hired by the WCB in 1996, and more recently by the board’s own investigators, who followed him around for several days between August 2009 to April 2010.

Following that investigation, the director of claimant services determined the worker had provided false and misleading information to the board and his benefits were terminated in April of last year.

The worker appealed the decision, and in a ruling handed down by the tribunal last week, he won.

The tribunal found that not only did the board fail to “explain this worker’s responsibilities and provide direction to him to meet his legislated responsibilities,” but it also relied too heavily on the results of the surveillance.

“His disorders do not prevent him from performing simple household chores or tasks such as mowing the lawn, carrying groceries or doing some light service or repairs on his vehicle; however it is highly unlikely he could cope with his physical pain and emotional problems on an ongoing basis in a work setting for extended periods of time,” stated the tribunal.

“We can find no evidence to indicate the worker was functionally able to return to work at any time since the December 1991 accident.”

The board has 30 days to appeal the ruling.

“I don’t know what the board’s going to do with this one,” said Valerie Royle, the president and CEO of the compensation board.

This is the second time this year that the tribunal has decided against the board.

In June, the tribunal rebuked investigators over the case of Michael Schwartz, a hunting guide injured by a horse in 1995.

Calling the investigative report “rife with conjecture, personal opinions and incorrect reporting,” the tribunal ordered the board to reinstate his benefits and pay him back, with interest, the benefits it had withheld for the last three years.

The board fought the tribunal’s decision, which has agreed to rehear the case.

“It didn’t comply with our legislation or our board policies, which it is required to do, and that’s as much as I can say,” said Royle. “I can’t get into details because it’s back in the process again.”

She couldn’t say whether or not the board would be appealing this latest decision.

“We make a decision on a case-by-case basis,” said Royle.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

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