When you work in the same job for years or perform a difficult job, it can have a negative impact on your health. In Quebec, if you can establish a link between your work and health problems, you may be eligible for compensation and care. But this is not a simple matter.
Work accident lawyer Me Bégin presents what you need to know to make a claim and obtain justice if you are a victim of an occupational disease.
What does the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases say?
In Quebec, the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases governs compensation for occupational injuries and their consequences for beneficiaries.
It is applicable to:
- Victims of a work accident or occupational disease contracted in Quebec whose employer has an establishment in the province.
- Victims of a work accident or occupational disease contracted outside Quebec, when they are domiciled in Quebec and when the employer has an establishment in Quebec when the accident or disease occurs.
What is the presumption of occupational disease?
Good news for workers, the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases provides for the presumption of occupational disease.
It exempts the worker from having to prove that he or she is suffering from an occupational disease when the latter is covered by Schedule I of the AIAOD. This increases the chances of success for the worker making a claim to the CNESST.
Presumption of occupational disease arises when:
- The illness was contracted or developed during the course of work performed by the employee.
- The disease is associated with the type of work performed or the hazards associated with it.
Accordingly, in order to trigger the presumption of an occupational disease, an employee who believes he or she is suffering from an occupational disease does not have to prove the diagnosis and demonstrate that he or she was performing the type of work to which the disease is associated.
What is the list of occupational diseases in Quebec?
To be recognized, the disease must be associated with one of the following 5 categories:
- Caused by infectious agents
- Caused by non-infectious agents
- Caused by physical agents
- Caused by organic or inorganic dusts
- Caused by toxic substances
1. Diseases caused by infectious agents
In general, these diseases and infections are associated with occupations requiring contact with animals, animal products or humans. Some of the most common include contracting parasites, tuberculosis or viral hepatitis.
2. Skin diseases caused by non-infectious agents
This category includes several skin diseases such as dermatitis and dermatoses that are generally caused by contact with irritating products such as solvents or acids.
Skin diseases caused by contact with abrasive surfaces that create friction and pressure on the skin as well as allergenic products such as chromium also fall into this category.
3. Diseases caused by physical agents
This category contains different types of occupational diseases:
- Those caused by physical constraints, either because of the tasks they must perform or because of the work environment in which they operate.
- Those resulting from exposure to excessive temperature, vibration or compressed air.
- Those contracted by exposure to radiation, leading to the development of cataracts or even cancer.
- Those caused by work involving repetitive movements, such as tendonitis and bursitis.
4. Lung diseases caused by organic and inorganic dusts
Exposure to substances that are harmful to humans (such as asbestos) can lead to lung diseases such as asthma or lung cancer.
The presumption of occupational disease applies as soon as toxic substances are present. Note, however, that the intensity and duration of exposure are not determining factors for declaring an occupational disease.
5. Diseases caused by toxic substances
This category is for people who have been poisoned by exposure to metals, halogens or organic and inorganic materials of a toxic nature.
What if I have an illness that does not fit into any category?
If you have a disease that is not listed in Schedule I of the AIAOD, the burden of proof is on you. The proof must be probable, obvious and rigorous.
In order to demonstrate that there is a relationship between the illness and your work, two conditions must be met:
- The disease must be the result of work that you performed. This can be proven by establishing an abnormal prevalence of the disease among people performing the same work.
- The illness must be directly related to the specific hazards of your job.
To increase the chances of a successful claim, we recommend that you document your claim with, if possible, medical expertise, testimonials and photographs.
If you have been injured on the job, our article on what to do after a work accident will help you take the right steps.
How to make a claim to the CNESST for an occupational disease
If you have an occupational disease, you may be entitled to compensation, health services or rehabilitation. You must submit your claim to the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) and have it accepted.
From the time of the diagnosis of an occupational disease confirmed by your treating professional, you have 6 months to complete and send the Worker’s Claim and the corresponding appendix to the CNESST. The CNESST will then analyze the eligibility of the claim.
If you have made a claim but are not satisfied with the decision, you can contest the decision of the CNESST.
Compensation for occupational disease: do you need a lawyer?
As you can see, claims can be made if you are the victim of an accident or occupational disease.
These depend on the nature of the illness: does it fall under Schedule I of the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases? When this is not the case, it can be difficult to obtain justice. The assistance of a legal professional can greatly benefit you.
If you have any questions or a decision to contest, please contact our Montreal law firm for more information.