Opposition to COVID-19 on workplace diseases list

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) opposes the addition of COVID-19 to the list of communicable diseases considered workplace diseases by WorkSafeBC.

VRCA, through the Council of Construction Associations (COCA), is a member of the Employers’ Forum, which has submitted a response to WorkSafeBC’s Discussion Paper titled: Adding Diseases Caused by Communicable Viral Pathogens, Including COVID-19, to Schedule 1 of the Workers Compensation Act.

On April 20, 2020 WorkSafeBC’s board of directors directed the Policy, Regulation and Research Division to amend Schedule 1 of the Workers Compensation Act to add a presumption for COVID-19 (or potentially more broadly coronaviruses or respiratory communicable diseases).

The Employers’ Forum submission notes the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, not a workplace health crisis. By adding COVID-19 to the list of communicable diseases that WorkSafeBC presumes was caught at work, public health costs will be transferred to the Workers’ Compensation system which is funded by employers.

“From the earliest days of the pandemic, the construction industry has moved quickly to implement enhanced safety protocols to protect workers and operate safely,” said Fiona Famulak, VRCA president. “It is our industry’s swift actions that have enabled contractors to remain open and for thousands of men and women to remain employed, subject to the guidance by the provincial health officer and WorkSafeBC.

Established in 1992, the forum works to maintain a viable and effective Workers’ Compensation system that endeavours to meet the needs of both the worker and employer in a safe and productive workplace. The Employers’ Forum functions as an advocate for all employers and a vehicle through which the employer community communicates on Workers’ Compensation issues.

“We proudly note that, as at May 27, 2020, WorksafeBC had accepted only one claim for COVID-19 from the construction industry while five had been disallowed, three required no adjudication and one remained pending. By adding COVID-19 to Schedule 1, WorkSafeBC will be dismissing the tremendous efforts made by everyone within the industry to operate safely as an essential service and position our province for economic recovery,” said Famulak.

VRCA is encouraging its member companies to each write a letter of support for the Employers’ Forum submission. Individual submissions can be as simple as, “We are members of VRCA, COCA and the Employers’ Forum. We have read and endorse their submission on the proposal to add COVID-19 to Schedule 1 of the Workers Compensation Act.”

Letters of support/submissions must be made by 4:30 p.m., Friday, June 12 and can be emailed to policy@worksafebc.com. Please copy Dave Baspaly, COCA president, on all correspondence at dave@cocabc.ca.

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