Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 515 14
S. Martel - B. Wheeler - G. Carlino
  • Firefighter
  • Heart attack
  • Presumptions (firefighter)

A firefighter worked a 24-hour shift from 7 am on April 10, 2010, until 7 am on April 11, 2010. On April 13, 2010, the worker was found dead in his home. An autopsy concluded that the cause of death was a myocardial infarction as a consequence of coronary atherosclerosis. The worker's estate appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying the worker entitlement for the heart attack.

Section 15.1(1) of the WSIA provides that, if a worker is prescribed under s. 15.1(8)(a) and sustains an injury to the heart in circumstances prescribed in 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. O. Reg. 253/07 prescribes that, for the purposes of s. 15.1(1) of the WSIA, the worker must have sustained the heart attack within 24 hours of attending a fire scene in the performance of duties as a firefighter. Board policy provides that a fire scene requires the presence of combustion or burning materials giving rise to smoke or flames.
The presumption in s. 15.1(1) did not apply in this case. The worker may have died in the afternoon of April 12, but this was still not within 24 hours of the end of his shift. Further, there was no evidence that the worker attended a fire scene during his last shift.
The estate submitted that the worker suffered a heart attack in February 2010, while attending a call at a high rise building. The autopsy indicated that the worker likely had suffered a heart attack at least six weeks prior to his death. However, there was no evidence that this incident was a fire scene nor was there evidence that the worker had to go up and down the stairs too many times, as records indicated that the worker was only at the scene for 13 minutes. Further, there was no medical evidence that the worker suffered a heart attack at that time.
The autopsy related the heart attack to coronary atherosclerosis. There was no evidence that the atherosclerosis was related to the worker's firefighting duties. The worker had other non-compensable coronary risk factors, such as smoking and high cholesterol.
The Panel concluded that the worker's firefighting duties did not significantly contribute to the worker's death. The appeal was dismissed.