- Understand the risk
- Plan for the financial consequences, and
- Prepare for the operational impact
As an example of the limitations of the Act, it may be mentioned that during the severe epidemic of Spanish influenza in the fall of 1918, many inquiries, telephonic and otherwise, were made as to whether the influenza was covered by the Act, some of the inquirers claiming that it was due to their daily work. There could, of course, be only one answer to these inquiries, that the influenza, though a great misfortune, could not by any stretch of imagination be considered as an accident arising out of employment.
[Source: Second Annual Report of the Workmen’s Compensation Board of the
Province of British Columbia For The Year Ending December 31st 1918, Page U11]
In the closing months of the last year we have been compelled to reject a number of claims arising out of the influenza epidemic, in which mothers with small children made application for pensions. One case was particularly painful. When informed that we must reject her claim, the mother of eight small children asked us in desperation: "What am I to do?" We were unable to answer. She withdrew from the Board room accompanied by two of her frightened children clinging to her skirts, and one in her arms, to answer the question as best she could. These experiences also compel us, at the risk of being censured for going outside of our sphere, to call attention to the enormous wastage of life, health, and happiness through failure or inability to obtain medical attention.
[Source: 1918 Annual report ibid., page U47]
[I've included a list of notable pandemics from Madhav N, Oppenheim B, Gallivan M, et al. Pandemics: Risks, Impacts, and Mitigation. In: Jamison DT, Gelband H, Horton S, et al., editors. Disease Control Priorities: Improving Health and Reducing Poverty. 3rd edition. Washington (DC): The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank; 2017 Nov 27. -Table 17.1, Chapter 17]
Low DE. SARS: LESSONS FROM TORONTO. In: Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Microbial Threats; Knobler S, Mahmoud A, Lemon S, et al., editors. Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2004. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92467/
In 2003, Canadians saw Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) strike with devastating human economic costs. In 2004, the avian inﬂuenza virus put workers at risk and resulted in millions of birds being destroyed. In both cases, the original source of human infection was an animal. The potential threat posed by diseases crossing over from animals has been identiﬁed as a serious risk to humans by the World Health Organization. These “zoonotic” diseases have had very limited health impact on B.C.workers to date; however, in the event of an outbreak of a highly contagious disease, front-line caregivers may be at increased risk. These diseases are within the scope of coverage by the Workers Compensation Act if the worker contracts the disease in the course of, and arising out of, duties related to his or her employment.
WorkSafeBC, 2004 Annual Report and 2005-2007 Service Plan
Countries are not prepared for a globally catastrophic biological event, including those that could be caused by the international spread of a new or emerging pathogen or by the deliberate or accidental release of a dangerous or engineered agent or organism
Global health security risks. Considerable progress has been made since the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014–2016, but health systems worldwide are still under-prepared for significant outbreaks of other emerging infectious diseases, such as SARS, Zika and MERS. [P. 76]
Due to the cruise ship, cargo and air traffic through Vancouver, it is possible that emerging diseases will be identified here in BC and that workers in health care, transport and hospitality will develop compensable disease.
[WCB of BC, “Future Risks: Issue specific environmental scan” 1998].
L&I [Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries is immediately changing its policy around workers’ compensation coverage for health care workers and first responders who are quarantined by a physician or public health officer. Under the clarified policy, L&I will provide benefits to these workers during the time they’re quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19 on the job.https://www.governor.wa.gov/
news-media/inslee-announces- workers-compensation-coverage- include-quarantined-health- workersfirst
Workers’ compensation has evolved its coverage in the past. Perhaps now is the time for a further evolution along the lines proposed in Washington state.