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WorkSafeBC Occupational Disease Claims (Long-Term Exposure to Workplace Hazards – What You Need to Know)

How do you prove that your injury or disease was caused by your job when it happened over time? It is easy enough to prove that a broken bone or a burn was caused by an accident at work, but when your condition slowly develops over time, it is a little more complicated.

According to WorkSafeBC policy[i], you do not need to prove that a specific incident occurred in order have your claim accepted for a compensable injury.  You do, however, have to show that your injury or disease was at least partially caused by something in the employment.[1] 

Claims involving occupational disease are tricky because the cause is often difficult to determine.  In order to have a claim involving occupational disease accepted, the worker needs to prove three things:

  1. That the worker had a disease that is designated or recognized by the Board as an “occupational disease”;
  2. That the occupational disease has been caused “due to the nature of any employment” in which the worker was employed; and
  3. That the occupational disease disables the worker from earning full wages at the work in which they were employed.*

Not every disease is recognized by the Board as an occupational disease.  Examples of some occupational diseases that are recognized by the Board include but are not limited to:

  • certain types of poisoning (lead, mercury, arsenic, carbon monoxide, etc.);
  •  silicosis;
  • asbestosis;
  • certain cancers;
  • knee and shoulder bursitis;
  • tendinopathy;
  • contact dermatitis;
  • bronchitis;
  • carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • lyme disease;
  • meningitis; and
  • thoracic outlet syndrome. 

Certain infectious diseases, such as chicken pox, head lice, mumps, typhoid, and whooping cough are also recognized, but are generally only accepted in cases involving health care workers.  Additionally, there are specific provisions relating to heart and lung diseases in firefighters that are recognized by the Board. 

It is the responsibility of the worker to show that their job was a significant cause of the disease, which can often be a difficult task. It is important to have documents from your doctor explaining that your occupational disease was caused by your job and how your job caused the disease to have the best chances of having a claim accepted.

Unfortunately, WorkSafeBC does not publish data relating to total claims, including those which have been accepted and denied.  The only data available relates to claims that have been accepted.  That data tells us that between 2014 and 2018 a total of 16,602 claims, including claims for workers who have died of their occupational disease, have been accepted.[2] While concrete data regarding denials is not available, it is our experience that such claims are usually denied.

It is also common, in cases involving claims based on physical injuries, such as repetitive strain injuries, that WorkSafeBC’s ergonomic department will visit the job site to assess if there is anything in the workplace and/or in the worker’s duties that could cause the claimed occupational disease.  Unfortunately, the result of these visits does not usually favor the worker and often does not capture the full reality of a worker’s duties and exposure to workplace hazards.

If you would like advice about filing a claim or if you have had a claim denied and would like advice about the appeals process, you can contact us at or (604) 591-8187.

[1] Rehabilitation Services & Claims Manual, Volume II, policy item C3-12.00.

[2] Occupational Diseases in B.C., 1994-2018: Table 1.

*  If the occupational disease does not fully disable a worker from earning their full wages, they may still be eligible for health care benefits.