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Teacher Newsmagazine   Volume 24, Number 5, March 2012  

Health and safety: Precautions to take toward a successful WCB claim 

By Karen Langenmaier 

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were injured at work or there was something in your work environment that made you sick that caused you to be off work or need months of therapy? Would you have to use up your sick days? Who would pay for the treatments? As workers, BCTF members are covered under the Workers Compensation Act and are eligible for compensation for workplace injuries and occupational diseases.

What to do if you are injured on the job

  1. Report to the first-aid attendant.
  2. Report to the administrator verbally and by completing the WorkSafeBC 6A form. Make a copy for yourself, your local union, and the health and safety committee.
  3. Inform your staff or health and safety rep.
  4. Go to your doctor. This is one of the most important steps because if you are eligible for compensation, it will not start until you have seen your doctor.
  5. Report to WorkSafeBC via Teleclaim at 1-888-WORKERS.

Members should keep in mind though that not all claims are accepted. The claims in which the BCTF WCB advocate has been challenged involve injuries, which occur during extracurricular activities, what WCB considers “volunteer” work, and work done outside of instructional or work time.

The WCB test in accepting or denying a claim is whether the event or activity is part of the member’s work. Activities such as coaching, conducting a school band or taking a group of students on a field trip seem to be generally accepted as part of a teacher’s work. Participating in an event at lunch or after school carry a higher burden of proof. WCB in one case decided that teachers taking part in teacher-student activities at lunch are volunteering and that participation is not part of a teacher’s job. Therefore if a teacher is injured they are not eligible for compensation for the injury.

The other test is whether administrators direct teachers to take part in the event or if the administrators are present during the activity. The WCB has said that it is a teacher’s choice to take part during the lunch break, that administrators do not direct teachers to participate and administrators should be present at the activity to supervise.

Another area where teachers have a high burden of proof is when they come into the school in the evenings or weekends or buy supplies for their classes. If a home economics teacher buys supplies for the class, they must be able to prove that the shopping was solely for the work and no supplies were purchased for personal use. Many teachers come into schools in the evening or weekends to prepare for the next class. It is imperative that the teacher be able to prove that the work being done is directly related to their work as a teacher.

No one goes to work expecting to be injured or to contract an occupational disease. Teachers regularly work outside instructional time either preparing for classes or participating in school events and extra-curricular activities. However WCB decisions based on the examples outlined above may make teachers think twice about participating in school activities.

Until the WCB understands the nature of teachers’ work, there are precautions that members should take:

  1. Prevention is always the first line of defense. BCTF members as part of an aging population need to recognize that what could be done at the age of 25 cannot be done anymore at the age of 45. Do a risk assessment of the activity and take steps to eliminate or reduce the risk of injury.
  2. Take part only in school sanctioned events. This means events that are clearly part of the school’s overall activities and that are not only approved by the administrator but ones in which there is a clear expectation that teachers participate.
  3. Make sure administrators know of teacher’s participation and have written confirmation. For example, if it is part of the home economics teacher’s duties to purchase supplies, this should be in written form and signed by the administrator. As another example—if teachers are to participate in a lunch, evening, or weekend activity there should be written documentation of the administration’s acknowledgement that the activity is sanctioned by the school and that the participation of the teachers is part of their work.
  4. The same advice holds true for field trips in which teachers who are not the regular teacher are asked to accompany students as chaperones.
  5. Members who come into schools in the evening or weekends should ensure their administrators know and approve of the time and activity.
  6. Document, document document.

The historic compromise of 1917 in which workers gave up the right to sue their employers and fellow workers for injuries on the job in return for a no-fault insurance program fully paid for by employers saw the inception of the Workers Compensation Act. The act puts the onus on the employer to ensure healthy and safe working conditions. It remains however the responsibility of the workers to look after themselves.

If a claim is denied, the member should contact the BCTF WCB advocate to seek advice. Ideally, the more of these appeals the BCTF wins, the sooner WCB will understand the work of teachers. 

Karen Langenmaier, BCTF Income Security Division  

 


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