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Established in 1985, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) is the final level of appeal to which workers and employers may bring disputes concerning workplace safety and insurance matters in Ontario. WSIAT has always been separate from and independent of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

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  Decision 1154 14
6/16/2014
B. Kalvin

  • Chronic obstructive lung disease
  • Exposure (synergy)
  • Smoking
  • Medical report (Tribunal medical discussion paper)

The worker worked in manufacturing facilities from 1956 to 1993. She died in 2012 at age 73. The worker's estate appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying the worker entitlement for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The ARO was of the view that exposure did not meet minimum requirements. The ARO also identified the worker's smoking history as the primary cause of the worker's COPD. However, the ARO did not appear to consider, and certainly did not analyze in any detail, was the effect that the occupational exposure would have had on a worker who smoked. The medical evidence indicated that, in addition to the long history of smoking, the worker also had a genetic predisposition to bronchial illness. The ARO appears to have analyzed each potential causal factor separately and concluded that smoking was significant and that workplace exposure was not significant but did not assess the combined effect of exposure and smoking.
A Tribunal medical discussion paper on COPD indicates that the interaction between smoking and occupational exposure is relevant and that, while the most important risk factor is smoking, occupational exposure acts additively to increase the risk.
The Vice-Chair concluded that the primary causes of the worker's COPD were smoking and genetic predisposition but the worker's occupational exposure to soldering fumes for 18 years was also a factor of significance that, in combination with the smoking, significantly contributed to the onset of her COPD.
The appeal was allowed.