Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 2382 12
13/09/2013
A. Baker - B. Davis - J. Crocker
  • Firefighter
  • Heart attack
  • Presumptions (entitlement)

A firefighter attended at a fire on July 15, 1973. He suffered a heart attack the next day, on July 16, 1973. The Board initially denied entitlement for the heart attack. As a result of legislative amendments in 2007, which allowed the worker's claim to be revisited, the Board granted the worker entitlement. The employer appealed.

Section 15.1(1) of the WSIA provides that, if a worker is prescribed under s. 15.1(8)(a) suffers an injury to the heart in circumstances prescribed under s. 15.1(8)(c), the injury is presumed to be a personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the worker's employment as a firefighter, unless the contrary is shown. Section 15.1(2) provides that subsection (1) applies to injuries sustained on or after January 1, 1960. Section 15.1(8) provides for the making of regulations. O. Reg. 253/07 was subsequently issues. Section 3 of the Regulation provides that the worker must have sustained the heart injury within 24 hours of attending the fire.
The worker was a firefighter who sustained a heart attack within 24 hours of attending a fire. The Panel rejected the employer's submission that it was an insignificant fire. There was evidence in the fire report of a large fire, with attendance for over three hours using 650 feet of hose. The worker had pre-existing heart problems. However, the evidence supported the worker's claim that he suffered the hearing attack on an aggravation basis. The attendance at the fire may not have been the only contributing factor to the heart attack but was a significant contributing factor.
The worker permanently aggravated his pre-existing condition as a result of the accident. He was not able to return to firefighting duties and continued to have limitation in his activities of daily living. Therefore, there was no basis to restrict benefits.
The rebuttable presumption shifted the onus to the employer to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the firefighting on July 15 was not a significant contributing factor to the worker's heart attack the following day. The employer did not meet that onus. The appeal was dismissed.