Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 2444 17
28/06/2019
J. Dimovski
  • Procedure (medical examination) (Tribunal assessor) (provision of materials to assessor)
  • Exposure (chlorine)
  • Anosmia
  • Ageusia

The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying entitlement for anosmia (loss of sense of smell) and ageusia (loss of sense of taste).

The worker related the anosmia and ageusia to workplace exposure to chlorine in his work as a laundry aide.
In Decision No. 2444/17I, the Vice-Chair decided to obtain an opinion from a Tribunal medical assessor. When requesting an opinion from a Tribunal assessor, a copy of the relevant file information together with specific questions is sent to the assessor in an assessor brief. A draft version of the assessor brief was sent to the worker. The worker objected to the contents of the brief.
The worker requested that additional documents be included in the assessor brief. Those documents related to the worker's exposure to chlorine gas. The Vice-Chair noted that the role of the assessor is to provide an expert opinion on a medical question and not to replace a vice-chair or panel in the decision-making process. In this case, there was no objective evidence of substance which quantified the air quality and chemical exposure in the workplace. It was not the assessor's job to determine the nature of the worker's exposure; rather, that is an adjudicative decision, which the assessor must accept in rendering an opinion. The Vice-Chair denied inclusion of the additional documents in the brief.
The worker also requested that certain documents be excluded from the brief. Those documents included reference to shoulder and back conditions. The Vice-Chair noted that there could be other possible reasons for a person to lose the sense of smell and taste. It was appropriate to include these documents in the brief.
The assessor's report included a statement that work in the laundry room was a minor part of the worker's job. This was not accurate, as it was found in Decision No. 2444/17I that the worker spent most of his shift in the laundry room, although there were some duties that were performed outside the laundry room and some other duties in the laundry room that were not laundry-related. However, the Vice-Chair found that the opinion of the assessor broadly addressed the questions posed. The inaccuracy did not taint the opinion for the purposes for which it was obtained.
The Vice-Chair accepted the opinion of the assessor and found that the worker had entitlement for anosmia but not for ageusia.
Regarding anosmia, the assessor noted a scarcity of reports documenting anosmia from chronic bleach exposure but found that the worker's presentation occurred in a progressive fashion over a number of years of exposure, in a poorly ventilated facility, to chlorine, which is an agent known to irritate mucous membranes within the nose.
Regarding ageusia, there was no evidence of substance confirming the diagnosis. The worker complained of loss of sense of taste but the loss of sense of smell alone could explain the worker's complaints about loss of sense of taste. There was also a lack of medical evidence supporting a relationship between exposure to chlorine and ageusia.
The appeal was allowed in part.