TORONTO — The United Steelworkers (USW) union has issued a statement urging Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to enact policy changes recommended by the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) to recognize more workplace cancer claims.
A report by OCRC director Dr. Paul Demers noted that an estimated 3,000 occupational cancers occur every year in Ontario, but only about 400 compensation claims are made by workers and survivors to the WSIB, with only 170 claims accepted.
“Recognition of work-related cancers is the first necessary step to preventing them in the future,” said USW Ontario director Marty Warren in the July 24 release.
The report by the OCRC’s Demers, released recently by the Ministry of Labour, points out that Ontario lags behind major European countries in the recognition of occupational cancer claims.
Ontario’s policies and regulations on specific cancers are often unfairly restrictive and have not kept pace with findings of respected scientific bodies like the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the report states. Demers recommends two new policies be enacted to better assess exposure to multiple carcinogens and the relationship between occupational and non-work exposures.
Such policy changes are overdue and are crucial in providing justice to victims of occupational cancers and to improve prevention, Warren said.
“The science has been there for years and this report was turned in six months ago. Carcinogens don’t cancel each other out or operate in a vacuum. Asbestos, diesel exhaust, silica, tobacco smoke and arsenic aren’t competing inside the lungs. They act together and multiply each other’s cancer-causing effects,” he stated.
“If the WSIB and Ministry of Labour don’t act on the Demers policy agenda immediately, it’s a sign that they have no intention of acting at all.”
The USW is endorsing the Ontario Federation of Labour’s demand that the WSIB suspend overly restrictive cancer policies and enact the new policies on multiple exposures by Labour Day.