OCRC Report: Using scientific evidence and principles to help determine the work-relatedness of cancer

8 Jul 2020

Occupational disease is under-recognized and under-reported in Ontario. Based on the Burden of Occupational Cancer Project, OCRC estimates that approximately 3,000 Ontarians are diagnosed with cancer each year due to their work. However, only about 400 cancer claims are submitted each year to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and approximately 170 of these receive compensation.

In January 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development requested an independent review by Dr. Paul Demers to answer three key questions:

  1. How can scientific evidence best be used in determining work-relatedness in an occupational cancer claim, particularly in cases with multiple exposures?
  2. Are there any best practices in other jurisdictions that Ontario should consider adopting?
  3. What scientific principles should inform the development of occupational disease policy?

The report reviews scientific theories and principles regarding cancer causation, the major challenges faced by workers’ compensation systems, and relevant practices in other jurisdictions. It makes 11 recommendations that we believe, if implemented, would increase recognition of occupational cancer, improve adjudication of occupational cancer claims, and contribute to improved prevention of occupational cancers. The recommendations relate to:

  • Expanding scientific capacity and the ability to investigate occupational disease clusters.
  • Developing more policies to facilitate the recognition of cancers caused by well-established workplace carcinogens.
  • Developing policies on how to consider the impact of multiple exposures.
  • Creating an independent Scientific Review Panel to review and update WSIB policies.
  • Improving medical education on occupational cancer to increase recognition.

To learn more, download the report or read it on the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development website, where it is available in both English and French.