Any work-related event that causes a worker to need medical treatment and/or time off work is considered a workplace injury.
Workplace injuries generally must occur while a worker is at work, on company premises or on company business to be covered by workers' compensation.
While it is relatively easy to determine if someone is physically injured, psychological injuries can take many forms, only some of which are covered by workers' compensation. To be covered by workers' compensation the psychological injury must meet the criteria for an acute or chronic psychological injury set out in workers' compensation legislation and policy.
A psychological injury is presumed to be an injury that arose out of and in the course of the worker’s employment when all of the following criteria is met:
a. The worker is, or the former worker was, exposed to a traumatic event.
b. The traumatic event arose out of and in the course of employment.
c. The traumatic event has caused the worker or former worker to suffer a psychological disorder that is diagnosed in accordance with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and
d. The psychological disorder is diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist licensed to practice and make diagnoses.
~CST Jay Pierson v Estevan Board Of Police Commissioners and the Workers' Compensation Board (Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench)
The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013 was amended in 2016 to specifically include compensation for workers experiencing psychological injuries caused by workplace trauma. In 2019, the WCB developed a specialized unit focused to consider and manage psychological injury claims. More information about the claims process for psychological injuries is available from the WCB.
An acute psychological injury is one that is caused by a single event that a worker is involved in or witnessed. These types of traumatic events must be shocking, horrific or involve a risk of harm to the worker or others. Generally the symptoms of the psychological injury will appear immediately after the event.
Workplace sexual harassment that involves a sexual assault could be an event that causes an acute psychological injury depending on what happened and the person's reaction to it.
Some psychological injuries are the result of a series of events not one specific event. In these cases it is the cumulative effect of these events that causes the injury. Generally the injury occurs gradually over time.
Some jobs involve dealing with events on a regular basis that the general public would consider traumatic. Firefighters, police and ambulance drivers are examples of these types of jobs. Over time dealing with these situations can cause a psychological injury.
For jobs that do not themselves involve dealing with traumatic events, psychological injury can occur based on events that are not typically expected in the workplace or in workplace relationships between workers or their employers or customers.
Generally, these events involve one of the following…
Instances of workplace sexual harassment can result in a psychological injury.
It’s important to note that while the WCB can consider claims related to workload or those that involve work-related interpersonal incidents, these incidents must “show highly aggressive, threatening or discriminatory behaviour over an extended period of time”.
Actions taken by an employer such as hiring, firing and disciplining an employee are not considered events that could cause a psychological injury that would be covered.
Generally speaking to support a claim of a psychological injury caused by a series of events there must be:
The events must also be the main cause of the injury. As the cause of a psychological injury brought on by a single traumatic event is usually more evident, a DSM diagnosis may not be required to accept a claim.
The WCB has a list of accredited psychologists that workers can contact regarding treatment for mental health issues arising from a work injury.
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