Photo by Whitehorse Star
Photo by Whitehorse Star
The territorial workers’ compensation board (WCB) will consider expanding the list of occupational cancers covered for firefighters as part of a legislative overhaul planned for this year.
Andrew Robulak, the WCB’s manager of social marketing and communications, told the Star today a full review of the Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Act is currently underway.
A public engagement process evaluating the two acts has been ongoing since October, Robulak said. The final public open house will take place at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre at 3 p.m. on Jan. 15.
Last week, the Star reported that Yukon firefighters met with the WCB to advocate for seven types of cancer to be added to the list covered by benefits.
Alex Forrest, the Canadian trustee for the International Association of Firefighters, told media the territory has fallen behind since implementing cancer coverage legislation in 2012.
Robulak said the meeting “went very well,” and was one of many sessions with stakeholders conducted by the WCB in this review.
A series of external advisory group meetings have been conducted, including with Yukon firefighters, members of the aviation industry and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.
After the final meeting in January, all of the information will be compiled into a “What We Heard” report likely leading to changes in legislation.
Last week, Barry Blisner of the Whitehorse Fire Department said he was hopeful that presumptive cancer legislation would be updated within six months.
Robulak told the Star he couldn’t confirm a timeline, as it will be dependent on the Yukon government’s ability to make those changes in the spring legislative sitting.
The WCB is considering a handful of changes to legislation in addition to presumptive cancer coverage.
Robulak said there is advocacy for a more formalized review and hearing process that will expedite the process of making a claim.
“That really strikes at the heart of the red tape situation,” Robulak said.
“Right now, it’s a fairly arduous process, so we just want to make it easier and more efficient.”
There are also conversations about adding mental health ailments to the bill of what WCB will cover.
“The history of workers’ compensation has really focused on physical injuries, but we live in an era where mental injuries (are more prevalent),” Robulak said.
The WCB has seen an increase in reports of mental health issues in recent years, he added.
“That’s one of the larger issues we’re exploring – trying to bring the acts into the 21st century.”
Finally, the WCB is considering replacing the current fee structure with an alternative order structure.
Robulak said the fees, which are intended to “create healthier and safer workplaces” through fining employers, might be replaced with the issuance of recommendations.
For example, rather than being fined, an employer might receive recommendations for increased training of the purchase of safety equipment.
Robulak is hopeful there will be a large turnout for the final public open house on Jan. 15, which he says will be open-format.
“We’re encouraging everyone to share their input into how they see our legislation, and how we can make workplaces safer.”
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