WorkSafe decision concerns teachers

NANAIMO – Teachers are concerned about a recent ruling by the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal

Nanaimo teachers are concerned about a recent ruling by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal that rejected a claim by a teacher injured during a lunchtime staff-versus-students softball game.

The social studies teacher, in an unnamed school and unnamed district, injured his wrist during a friendly game between teaching staff and Grade 12 students, which was organized a week earlier through the school’s student council.

The appeal tribunal, the final level of appeal in the B.C. workers’ compensation system and independent of WorkSafe B.C., found that the June 2011 injury did not arise out of, and in the course of, the teacher’s employment as a social studies teacher.

The decision states that the teacher was not involved in an activity that was part of his job; he was not instructed by the employer to carry out the activity; the activity was not supervised by a representative of the employer; fitness was not a job requirement; his participation was voluntary; and he was injured outside normal working hours.

The immediate effect of the decision upon teachers provincewide was to wonder if the voluntary activities they engage in with students are covered by WorkSafe B.C. should they injure themselves, said Justin Green, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association.

“The ruling is being appealed,” he said.

“If it does stand, then it creates a lot of questions on are you actually covered if you’re coaching or doing a lunch-hour activity. The concern is teachers aren’t going to volunteer as much.”

Green said the union is working with the school district to inform members about the things they need to do to make it more likely a claim for an injury sustained during extracurricular activities would be accepted.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said in his opinion, the teacher was on the job.

“The ruling seems poorly reasoned, in my view,” he said.

Brennan said the concern is that the ruling could mean less willingness on the part of teachers to do extracurricular activities with students if they know they won’t be covered if injured.

Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman, said the district is working with the teachers’ union to clarify for employees when they are covered by WorkSafe B.C. and when they are not.

“It is our understanding that if a person is coaching a team, they are covered,” she said.

“If it’s a school-approved activity, then they are covered. I think in this one situation [covered by the WCB decision], it was an informally organized event.”

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