EDITOR'S NOTE: On Nov. 30, 2022, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) released the results of an audit conducted by KPMG designed to streamline the dispute resolution and appeals process for worker compensation claims as set out by the WSIB. Among its conclusions, KPMG is recommending that WSIB shorten the time to appeal a decision on a claim to 30 days from the current six months, drastically reducing the amount of time a worker has to file the documentation required for an appeal. Today, July 21, 2023, is the final day members of the public can provide feedback on this decision. Below is the submission from one worker advocate who argues against the KPMG ruling.
July 20, 2023
RE: KPMG recommendations to reduce appeal time limits for WSIB claimants from six months to 30 days
I am writing as the founder of the McIntyre Powder Project and as the daughter of an underground miner who died as a result of occupational disease that took nine years and the moving of mountains for WSIB to formally recognize.
There are 637 McIntyre Powder-exposed mine workers on my McIntyre Powder Project’s voluntary registry to date. Two hundred and eighty-seven of them have email addresses. Three hundred and fifty do not. Of those 287 with email addresses, a tiny fraction have access to a printer or scanner, and several do not have reliable internet service. Many have told me that they do not know how to open or download email attachments, use passwords, remember their passwords, forward documents, upload documents, attach documents, register for online services, or otherwise navigate online.
They rely on hard copy papers and Canada Post mail services as a bare minimum to allow them to have meaningful access to the WSIB claims and appeals processes.
It takes longer than 30 days for them to receive by mail, fill out, and mail back Intent to Object forms, and that assumes that the WSIB denial letter is actually mailed out on the date of the WSIB decision.
Particularly since the rerouting of mail service through a massive sorting facility in southern Ontario, mail service to Northern Ontario communities has been slowed considerably, especially to some of the smaller, remote communities. At times it has taken two weeks or more for mail to travel one way between Northern Ontario communities; for example, from Sudbury to Timmins or vice versa.
Simply on that logistical basis alone, 30 days is nowhere near adequate for elderly, health-compromised workers, their exhausted caregivers or grieving widows to receive, complete, and return paperwork within 30 days. They also need help to fill out the appeal forms, and accessing that help requires far longer than the proposed 30-day appeal time would allow.
The current six-month appeal time is appropriate and must remain in place in order to provide workers or their surviving next-of-kin the opportunity to meet the time limits for appeals.
The purported rationale of the KPMG recommendations to reduce the current appeal time limit from six months to 30 days is that doing so will reduce appeal backlogs and wait times. Admittedly, functionally barring workers and their dependents from proceeding with appeals because of an unreasonable time limit for the appeal will reduce the number of claims that proceed to appeals, and to that end, it will reduce the appeals backlog — on the backs of those workers and their families.
If the WSIB wishes to alter their processes to meet their stated goal of reducing appeal backlogs and wait times, I respectfully suggest that they utterly reject the KPMG recommendation to reduce appeal time limits from six months to 30 days, and instead turn their focus to making claim decisions that do not result in the need for appeals.
Janice Martell, McIntyre Powder Project (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Janice Martell is the founder of the McIntyre Powder Project, a volunteer registry that catalogues the work histories and health records of miners who breathed in a finely ground aluminum dust called McIntyre Powder as a condition of employment while working at underground mines across Northern Ontario between 1943 and 1980.