WCB approves PTSD claim triggered by office fire alarm

Dear Blue Collar,

The wheels are falling off the world. A probationary new-hire just filed a claim for PTSD after our office fire alarm sounded. WCB said something about a ‘thin-skull’ rule, and that the trauma is somehow related to her upbringing in Somalia. Pardon the rant, but on what planet does a fire alarm trigger PTSD?

(A) While I’m not privy to the whole story, I’ve encountered many similar cases. The “thin skull” doctrine holds that a permanent impairment following an accident is fully compensable even if an accident victim’s pre-existing health condition – i.e., to take the classic example, the victim’s damaged skull being inordinately thin – is found to be impacting on that impairment. In calculating compensation, one must, as WCB and the courts have said, take accident victims as one finds them, thin skull or not.

In response to Bill 30’s passage, Blue Collar has coined a new term: the ‘thin-skin’ rule. The thin-skin rule adopts all the musculoskeletal implications of thin-skull, but in addition, expands the doctrine to include psychological vulnerabilities. And hence, when you hire someone uniquely prone to PTSD, you own the consequences.

To be clear, none of the foregoing is meant to disparage the worker, as there are evils perpetrated in war-torn parts of Africa that are unconscionable to the Western mind. And yet, it behooves employers to be aware of their exposure nonetheless.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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About Me

Ben Barfett, Principal and Consultant, has spent his life in the construction sector, specifically heavy civil, enviro, commercial, and energy. Having held senior roles in business development, technical advisory, and regional management, he earned his stripes in the field and in head office. Conscious of the interplay between commercial, legal, and execution aspects of construction, his business insights are informed by expertise in WCB policy and enhanced with disability-specific training. 

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Blue Collar Consulting

Blue Collar Consulting is a WCB and disability management firm. The company specializes in rapid and affordable disability solutions that advance current claims, contain the cost of future claims, and get injured workers back on their feet. 

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