Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 2666 16
J. Dimovski
  • Heart attack
  • Presumptions (firefighter)

The worker was a volunteer firefighter who attended a grass fire in 2001. The next day, he suffered a fatal heart attack. In 2011, the worker's estate submitted a claim for entitlement under the Board policy relating to firefighters and heart injuries. The Board granted entitlement. The employer appealed.

The WSIA was amended in 2007 to add ss. 15.1 and 15.2. Those sections provide for a presumption for firefighters who sustain a heart injury in prescribed circumstances. O Reg. 253/07, s. 3, provides that the heart injury must have been sustained within 24 hours of attending a fire scene. Board Operational Policy Manual, Document No. 15-03-12, on heart injuries in firefighters and fire investigators, provides that a fire scene requires the presence of combustion or burning material giving rise to smoke and/or flames. The presumption may be rebutted if it is established that the employment was not a significant contributing factor to the occurrence of the heart injury.
The employer did not dispute that the worker travelled to the place where the fire broke out. The employer also did not dispute that the worker died within 24 hours. However, the employer submitted that, by the time the worker arrived at the scene, the fire had already been put out, so that there was no fire scene within the meaning of the Board policy. However, the Vice-Chair found that, despite gaps in the evidence, the worker arrived at the scene when the burning grass gave rise to smoke. The Vice-Chair concluded that the worker was present at a fire scene in the performance of his duties and that he died within 24 hours. Accordingly, the Board policy was applicable.
The employer submitted that the worker's death from the heart attack was due to a pre-existing condition. However, the Vice-Chair noted that the worker died as a result of a heart attack. This constituted a heart injury under the Board policy. The presumption applied that the heart injury was work-related. The presumption was not rebutted.
The Vice-Chair noted that the retroactivity of the legislation and the gap between the worker's death and the claim meant that the worker's medical file had been destroyed by the time it could be requested for the purpose of the appeal. However, the employer did not provide any other significant evidence indicating any circumstances to rebut the presumption.
The appeal was dismissed.