Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1378 12
A. Baker - M. Trudeau - A. Grande
  • Legionnaire's disease
  • Second Injury and Enhancement Fund {SIEF} (preexisting condition)

The worker was an air conditioning mechanic. He started working for the employer in February 2007. He went on vacation on August 9, 2007, but began to fell ill. He went to hospital on August 18, 2007, for a serious respiratory condition and was diagnosed with Legionnaire's disease. The employer appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer granting the worker entitlement for the Legionnaire's disease.

For entitlement, the Panel must be satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that work exposure was a significant contributing factor to the onset of the Legionnaire's disease. The Panel noted that this case was one in which inference would play a key role given that it is impossible to know with certainty if the worker contracted Legionnaire's disease in the course of his employment. However, the Panel also noted that the worker's theory of causation must have sufficient evidence to support such an inference. It cannot be merely speculative.
The worker did contract Legionnaire's disease. Given the incubation period and the worker's symptoms when he went to the hospital, it was not plausible that the worker contracted the Legionnaire's disease while in hospital. Further, there was no specific source identified at the worker's home or at the cottage while he was on vacation. While the Panel could not reject the claim on the basis of some general possibility of another source of infection, it also could not accept the claim simply because the worker was an air conditioning mechanic.
The Panel focused with as much precision as possible on the nature of the worker's work duties and the nature of the worker's exposure while performing those duties during the relevant time period.
A Ministry of Labour report indicated that there is potential exposure for workers to biological agents such as legionellae bacteria during servicing and maintenance activities on ventilation systems if splashing or inhalation of aerosolized contaminated warm stagnant water occur. The Panel noted that, at the relevant time, there had been increased rainfall combined with hot, humid weather. The worker was working in areas and accessing equipment in conditions where water could gather and stagnate, in particular, he walked through water on the roof top and unplugged drains, and would have been exposed to sitting water in the weeks before he stopped working.
The Panel concluded on the balance of probabilities that workplace exposure more likely than not led to the worker's infection. The Panel also noted that the onset of symptoms was well within the incubation period and that the worker had been in general good health.
The Panel also found that the worker did not have a pre-existing condition. Thus, the employer was not entitled to SIEF relief.
The appeal was dismissed.