Home Featured Paramedic’s claim for psychological injuries following death of patient under his care denied on appeal

Paramedic’s claim for psychological injuries following death of patient under his care denied on appeal

by HR Law Canada

The Northwest Territories and Nunavut Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal has overturned a previous decision by the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) Review Committee, denying a paramedic/firefighter’s claim for compensation for psychological injuries.

The paramedic claimed psychological injury due to his work environment, citing incidents of workplace harassment and the traumatic experience of a patient dying under his care on June 2, 2020.

Initially, his compensation claim, submitted on Sept. 28, 2020, was denied by the WSCC, which stated that there was no evidence of the alleged harassment.

Later, the WSCC’s Review Committee reversed the decision and acknowledged the worker’s entitlement to compensation, recognizing his psychological injury as resulting from cumulative workplace harassment. This led to the current appeal by the employer.

Colin Baile, Tribunal Chairperson, in the ruling, cited various factors in reaching this decision. The tribunal considered previous cases, notably Decision 22-003, 2023 NTNUWCAT 2, which dealt with similar issues of workplace harassment and mental stress.

However, the tribunal found that while the paramedic was indeed a victim of workplace harassment, these incidents did not rise to the level of “traumatic events” as defined by WSCC Policy 03.09 – Psychiatric and Psychological Disorders.

The tribunal’s analysis hinged on the interpretation of what constitutes a “traumatic event.” While the worker’s experiences were deemed inappropriate and potentially humiliating, they were not considered horrific, violent, or life-threatening – key characteristics of a traumatic event as per the WSCC policy.

Additionally, the tribunal noted that the worker’s pre-existing Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder played a role in his perception and response to these workplace events.

Note: This ruling was made in June 2023 but was just posted to CanLii on Dec. 15, 2023.

For more information, see Decision No. 23-004, 2023 NTNUWCAT 4 (CanLII)

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