Why do I need to report every work injury?

Symptoms can take years to develop

You have to create a paper trail.  A few minutes spent reporting an incident at work may make all the difference to you in future. Protect yourself. It just takes a few minutes and it may save you years of grief later on.

Muscle injury:
Julio was moving a large metal plate with the help of another guy. Suddenly he lost his grip and the plate slipped. He managed to catch it before it hit the floor but it jarred his back pretty badly. Julio stood up and leaned over to see how badly he’d hurt his back. It was a bit stiff but he figured it was probably ok and did not bother reporting it.  He did mention it to his co-worker however.

Julio had two weeks of vacation booked anyhow and figured his back would get better while he was relaxing on a hot beach with a cool drink in hand. His back was not bad while he was on holiday, but as soon as he got back to work it started to act up and the second morning back he woke up in agony.  X-rays indicated he had a herniated disc.

You can guess what happened when Julio reported this to the employer and WorkSafeBC, saying it must have been caused by the incident with the metal plate just before he left on holiday. There was a good chance this was not going to end well for Julio!

Of course WorkSafeBC assumes that if you did not report an incident, it likely never happened. Julio would have to convince them that it did: if he had reported it to his employer, he’d be halfway there. If he had gone the next step and reported it to WorkSafeBC, he would have been much better off.

He then needed to convince WorkSafeBC that his back was symptomatic on holiday and that it was coming back to work and starting to do heavy labour again that finally tipped it over the edge. This was a medical issue and hopefully his doctor would support him in this.

Exposure to workplace toxin:
If you have been gassed or had an exposure to something toxic at work, it may develop into something in later years, but you will need to have it on the record with WorkSafeBC in order to be accepted, especially if there are repeated exposures over time. WorkSafeBC and the employer will accept a claim for hepatitis in a health care many years later if the worker reported a needle stick incident.

Repetitive jarring:
You may have a job that jars your back or shoulder (or any part of your body) periodically when a piece of equipment jams or sticks, like a wheelchair that keeps locking, or a broken suspension seat in a truck. If it has been bothering you, you should at least report this to first aid so that there is a record. If you develop back problems later on, you have documentation that this was happening and may well be the cause of your back problems.

Adding to previous injury:
You may already have a bad back from a non-work-related injury, but the incident at work may worsen it, either temporarily or permanently. This should be accepted by the WCB too.

Sarah O’Leary
Rush Crane Guenther
Barristers & Solicitors

What to do if you’re injured at work

Critical information if you’re injured on the job