‘A Totally Rigged System’: Injured Workers in British Columbia Want Change Now

Advocates concerned at government delays in dealing with WorkSafeBC reform.

SOURCE: The Tyee

It took seconds for a workplace injury to change James Mansell’s life.

He spent the next 12 years in a frustrating and ultimately unsuccessful effort to get help from WorkSafeBC.

Mansell, from Port Coquitlam, was 42 in 2008. He’d been a truck driver for some 15 years. It was the start of another workday, and he was attaching the thick lines that connect the truck to the trailer when something went wrong.

“It popped something in my shoulder when I was plugging the hydraulic lines in,” he said.

James Mansell was injured on the job a decade ago and says he has been fighting with WorkSafeBC ever since. The organization has repeatedly failed him, he says, leaving him unable to work and his family in a difficult place. Photo by Jesse Winter for The Tyee.

He got medical attention, had surgery on the shoulder and was healing well. He hoped to be back at work soon.

Then a WorkSafeBC case worker sent him, without the knowledge of his doctors, to a physiotherapist who ended up re-damaging the shoulder, he said.

The goal seemed to be to rush him back to work, Mansell said. “My case worker took away my time needed to heal and went behind all my doctors’ and surgeons’ backs for a second opinion.”

WorkSafeBC didn’t apologize.

“They basically did everything in their power as soon as they disabled me to hide the fact, in my opinion,” Mansell said. “It wasn’t my work injury that disabled me, it was WorkSafeBC themselves that disabled me.”

WorkSafeBC is mandated to promote safe and healthy workplaces, support rehabilitation of people injured at work and provide compensation to replace lost wages.

Funded with insurance premiums paid by employers and with investment income, under the system both employees and employers give up the right to sue in exchange for a predictable, no-fault method of determining how much support an injured worker is entitled to.

For privacy reasons, WorkSafeBC doesn’t comment on individual cases like Mansell’s.

“We know there is room for improvement, and we are always striving to meet the unique and individual needs of the injured workers of B.C.,” a spokesperson said in an email. “Our goal is to provide exceptional service in all interactions with individual injured workers and employers to facilitate workers staying at work or returning to work, so that work-related injuries do not result in life-altering absences from the workplace.”

WorkSafeBC measures its performance and reports out on it annually. In 2019, 82 per cent of workers rated their overall experience with the agency as “good” or “very good,” the statement said.

But stories like Mansell’s are common, as injured workers complain the agency has refused to provide support or benefits and — one way or another — made life more difficult for someone already going through a hard time.

GO TO The Tyee FOR MORE....

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