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Severed Trust: Enabling WorkSafeBC to do the right thing when its mistakes hurt injured workers

Thursday, September 16, 2021

This report is about a cabinet maker, Mr. Snider, who lost the tips of some of his fingers in a workplace accident. As is normal in the case of an injured worker, he received care and benefits through the workers’ compensation system administered by WorkSafeBC. However, after a few months, those benefits were terminated because WorkSafeBC insisted Mr. Snider could return to working with the same tools that caused his injury.

Shortly after, a second, more serious, accident occurred, and WorkSafe’s own Review Division ruled that WorkSafeBC was wrong to have terminated Mr. Snider’s benefits following the first accident. WorkSafeBC awarded Mr. Snider benefits for the second accident on the same basis as any other injured worker, but did not compensate him for its own role in this tragedy. We asked WorkSafeBC to apologize and to implement changes in its practices in order to mitigate the risk of this happening to anybody else. WorkSafeBC did those things. But they have declined to pay Mr. Snider any money beyond the schedule of benefits, saying they are not legally able to do so.

Because the existing legislation prevents WorkSafeBC from acting, the BC Ombudsperson recommended that the Minister of Labour bring forward legislation that would give WorkSafeBC the ability to voluntarily pay money to someone in the extraordinary event where WorkSafeBC determines that their own error has caused a grievous injury. And because that would take some time, we recommended that government make an ex-gratia payment to Mr. Snider in recognition of the harms he has suffered.

The Ministry of Labour rejected the three recommendations made to provide restitution to Mr. Snider in this case and future workers who are similarly harmed:

  1. Propose amendments to the Workers Compensation Act to create a mechanism and a fund to enable WorkSafe BC, on its own initiative and at its sole discretion, to provide monetary compensation to seriously injured workers harmed by WorkSafeBC errors.
  2. Compensate the injured worker by way of an ex-gratia payment to be determined by a retired Supreme Court of British Columbia judge pending the legislative changes.
  3. Pay the reasonable legal expenses incurred by the injured worker to present his case to the retired judge.

View the news release here