As of Jan. 1, Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has been allowing claims for work-related chronic mental stress, a mental disorder caused by substantial work-related stressors.
Angela Powell, vice-president of policy and consultation services at the WSIB, discussed the new policy in a session at the Partners in Prevention conference in Mississauga, Ont. on May 1.
The chronic mental stress policy contains three key criteria that an injured worker must meet before being compensated.
The first criterion is a diagnostic requirement. The injured worker needs to provide a DSM diagnosis from a regulated health-care professional who is authorized to make such a diagnosis (this includes family physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists).
Next, there must be proof of substantial work-related stressors. An event or accident that occurred during the course of employment to trigger the chronic mental stress must be established to prove there is a cause.
The third criterion is having a causation standard. This means that the workplace incident be the predominant cause of the chronic mental stress.
Originally, the policy’s entitlement date was going to be applicable to accidents that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2018, but that subsequently changed. Now, in addition to meeting the three criteria, the policy outlines that the accident had to have happened on or after April 29, 2014 under the condition that the worker has not previously filed a complaint for mental stress with the WSIB before Jan. 1, 2018.
Powell says April 29, 2014 is a significant date because it was the first day there was a decision on this topic made by the appeals tribunal, questioning the legality of the restrictions that have been in a previous version of the legislation.
The WSIB cautions that workers who have not yet filed a claim for chronic mental stress with an accident date on or after April 29, 2014 and before Jan. 1, 2018, to do so by July 1 in order to receive their benefits.
Armando Fatigati, vice-president of complex claims at the WSIB, said at Partners in Prevention that case management is at the heart of work when it comes to dealing with chronic mental stress claims. After the worker recovers, he said it is crucial to have a return-to-work program, especially one with a collaborative approach, featuring the injured person, the employer and the primary health-care provider. The health-care provider and the WSIB’s treatment plan should be in-synch with each other to ensure a successful transition back to work.
Prevention is at the core of the matter when it comes to chronic mental stress. The WSIB encourages being proactive in creating a psychologically safe workplace and accessing free online resources for information as needed, such as thinkmentalhealth.ca, firstrespondersfirst.ca or also civicaction.ca/mentalhealth, for instance.