Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 2527 18
04/12/2018
S. Ryan - E. Tracey - A. Signoroni
  • Causation
  • Infection (lung)

The worker was a cook for a company that provided camp management services, including catering for railway companies at remote work sites. The worker developed pulmonary symptoms in September 2012. He was diagnosed with pulmonary blastomycosis (fungal lung infection), and died the same month. The worker's estate appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying entitlement for the pulmonary blastomycosis.

Blastomyces dermatitidis is endemic to northern Ontario, encompassing all of the work sites at which the worker worked and the location of his home. Pulmonary blastomycosis is contracted by inhalation of bestomyces dermatitidis. The period of incubation for the disease is from three to 15 weeks.
Most of the worker's duties were carried out in railcars parked on railway tracks. His shifts generally consisted of eight consecutive days at work followed by six consecutive days off work.
The worker likely contracted the disease by inhalation. The fungus is known to exist in moist soil. The worker did most of the cooking outside on a raised platform but he was also involved in some activities on the ground. He could also have inhaled the fungal spore while in the railcars, which were ventilated by open windows and air conditioners. The worker could also have inhaled the fungal spore at home, which was close to a forested area, but the worker did not engage in activities, such as hunting, fishing or gardening.
The Panel adopted a robust and pragmatic approach to the evidence. The worker spent more time at work than at home during the likely incubation period. During the maximum incubation period from April to September 2012, the worker was at work for 101 days and away from work for 61 days. The Panel also considered the minimum incubation period and an average incubation period, and found that the worker was at work far more often than he was away from work.
In the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the worker contracted the pulmonary blastomycosis while at work. The appeal was allowed.