THE EMPLOYERS' EDGE
When a workplace accident happens away from the workplace
A newspaper article in the Toronto Star on July 4, 2012 reviewed a recent decision of the Appeals Branch of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Other than this newspaper article, the decision is not publicly available. As a result, it is difficult to rely solely on the discussion in the newspaper to review the findings of the Board. However, the article raises some interesting issues for employers to consider.
According to the article, a paramedic employed by Simcoe County was attending an “Elvis themed festival” in Collingwood in July 2009. He was off-duty at the time. While walking the streets of the festival, he noticed an elderly man fall. He went over to the man to see if he needed assistance and discovered that the man had no vital signs. He then called 911. When an ambulance arrived, he assisted those paramedics to place the man on the stretcher and load the stretcher into the ambulance. During the stretcher lift, he injured his arm. The injury resulted in significant lost time from his employment.
This good samaritan then made a claim for benefits from the WSIB. In order to establish a claim, under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, a worker must demonstrate that the accident occurred in the course of employment and also that the injury arose out of the employment. The initial adjudicator denied the claim. The paramedic appealed, and according to the article in the Star, succeeded with his appeal.
In the absence of access to the actual decision, it is difficult to comment on the reasoning behind this outcome in this particular case. However, the result is not altogether unusual. In many cases that have proceeded to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal, a worker has succeeded in connecting an accident away from the workplace and during “off duty” time to his or her employment. Some of these cases include slips and falls while on a lunch break or coffee break at the closest coffee shop to the workplace, injuries during employer-sponsored (or endorsed) charity events, company picnics, work-outs in the workplace fitness room before or after the start of a shift, fitness or sporting activities encouraged by or endorsed by the employer, and even accidents during the impromptu pick-up ball hockey game in the employer’s parking lot after work.
The key in almost all of these types of decisions is whether there is a demonstrable connection between the accident and the employment. Is there an employment “nexus”? Employers can take steps to strengthen or weaken this nexus through employee directives and policies, by attempting to control or limit employee conduct away from work, or by taking careful steps to create a distance between the choices an employee makes while away from work and the relationship between those decisions and the employment. Every case and every type of situation needs to be considered on its own facts.
The simple warning of this recent case, though, is that even when Elvis has “left the building” he has not necessarily “left the workplace”. The Lawyers at CCP can assist employers in addressing these types of situations before they arise and also in developing plans to minimize these types of risks.
?Please Note: This blog has been prepared as an informational service for our clients and other interested parties. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, a complete statement of the law or opinion on any subject. Although we endeavour to ensure the accuracy of the content, no one should act upon the information provided without a thorough examination of the law after the facts of a specific situation are fully considered.