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Established in 1985, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) is the final level of appeal to which workers and employers may bring disputes concerning workplace safety and insurance matters in Ontario. WSIAT has always been separate from and independent of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

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  Decision 2632 15
12/30/2016
G. Dee - J. Blogg - M. Ferrari

  • Cancer (esophagus)
  • Evidence (epidemiological)
  • Exposure (asbestos)

The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying entitlement for esophageal cancer. The worker had a long history of exposure to asbestos and welding fumes. The exposure was initially in Portugal, but most of the exposure was in Ontario after he moved here in 1967. A Tribunal medical assessor noted that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) periodically reviews and publishes reports on the medical and scientific evidence linking various types of cancer with occupational exposure. The last published update was in 2016, and it did not mention either asbestos or welding fumes as possible causes of esophageal cancer. However, the assessor also stated that it often takes several years of accumulating evidence of causation before an agent is classified by the IARC. The assessor referred to recent epidemiological evidence showing not only a relationship between esophageal cancer and asbestos but also that the risk of developing esophageal cancer after such exposure is quite high. The Panel referred to a memo dated in 2009 from the Assistant Director of the Board's Occupational Disease Services. It provides direction to Board staff regarding interpretation of the Board policy on gastro-intestinal cancer in asbestos workers, essentially stating that the actual provisions of the policy should be ignored because they are based on outdated scientific evidence and that each case should be determined on the merits by considering all the circumstances including current scientific information. The Panel found that the worker had entitlement for the esophageal cancer, whether based on the Board policy or based upon scientific studies that post-dated both the Board policy and the 2009 memo. The appeal was allowed.