Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 336 14
B. Kalvin - S. Sahay - A. Grande
  • Firefighter
  • Cancer (brain)
  • Presumptions (firefighter)

The worker began working as a firefighter in May 1987. He was diagnosed with brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme) in April 1996. He died in March 1997, at age 41. The worker's estate appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying entitlement for the brain cancer.

Prior Board policy required a minimum of 20 years of work as a full-time firefighter in order to presume that there was an occupational cause for brain cancer. However, that policy was replaced by Operational Policy Manual, Document No. 23-02-01, on cancer in full-time firefighters. That policy reduced the minimum length of exposure to 10 years in order for the presumption to apply. If the worker does not meet the minimum employment duration, the presumption does not apply and the case will be determined on its individual merits.
In this case, the worker had just less than nine years of employment as a firefighter at the time of diagnosis. Accordingly, the presumption did not apply.
The Panel then considered the case on its individual merits. Although the presumption did not apply, the fact that the worker had exposure for a period that was just short of that which would have triggered the presumption is a factor that counts favourably in assessing the merits and justice of the case. Further, medical opinions from two Tribunal assessors supported the conclusion that it was more likely than not that occupational exposure was a factor that contributed significantly to the brain cancer. Glioblastoma multiforme is a very rare form of brain cancer and one of the assessors stated that it can develop in far less than 10 years of exposure to carcinogens
The Panel concluded that the worker had entitlement for the brain cancer. The appeal was allowed.