Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 733 20
B. Kalvin
  • Stress, mental
  • Transportation industry (bus driver)
  • Board Directives and Guidelines (stress, mental) (traumatic event)

The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying the worker entitlement for traumatic mental stress in May 2018.

The worker was a bus driver. He came to an intersection where the traffic lights were all red. The lights facing him were solid red, whereas the lights governing traffic in the other direction were flashing red. Most drivers were treating the situation as a four-way stop, and proceeding intermittently through the intersection. The worker did not want to drive through the intersection because the red light facing him was not flashing, but solid red.
The passengers on the bus started to get impatient and upset with the worker because they noticed that other vehicles were treating the situation as a four-way stop. The worker contacted his dispatcher who told him to treat the intersection as a four-way stop and proceed. The worker refused to do so because he believed such a maneuver would constitute a breach of the Highway Traffic Act. The worker also refused to let the passengers get out of the bus because he believed it was unsafe for them to do so because of the traffic in the road. The passengers became increasingly upset and some swore at him. One passenger, in particular, came very close to the worker by crossing a yellow line on the floor meant to separate passengers from the driver.
The worker asked the dispatcher to send assistance. This was done; however, it took over 40 minutes for the supervisor to arrive on the scene. When the supervisor arrived he signaled the worker to open the door. The worker did so, and the passengers left the bus, with some making angry comments about the worker. The worker was very stressed at this time. He has a history of heart-attacks and was concerned for his health.
Under Board Operational Policy Manual, Document No. 15-03-02, on traumatic mental stress, it is not sufficient that a worker's subjective experience of a workplace incident be traumatic. In order for the worker to be entitled to benefits, the policy mandates that the triggering event must be objectively traumatic.
The Vice-Chair found that an average person may have found the incident to be stressful and unpleasant, but not traumatic as that term is used in the Board's policy and in Tribunal jurisprudence. The passengers were angry and verbally abusive. There is always the potential when dealing with hostile angry persons in any setting that physical violence may ensue. However, the evidence in this case did not reveal that the worker faced an imminent and credible threat of serious physical violence in the manner contemplated by the Board's policy. To meet the objectively traumatic criterion of the Board's policy, the incident would have to be significantly more frightening and emotionally upsetting than that which occurred in the present case.
The appeal was dismissed.