No workers’ compensation for former miner with lung cancer

Years of smoking and old age were as much causal factors as lifetime job in nickel smelter: Tribunal
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 11/16/2011

The Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal has denied the claim of a miner who developed lung cancer after nearly four decades in the mining industry but had other factors that may have contributed to the disease.

The worker was employed at a nickel smelter from 1937 until his retirement at age 60 in 1975. For 29 of those years, he worked in the roasters, which featured natural gas burners and asbestos insulation. This insulation was often damaged and came loose around the roasters area. Large cleaners were used to remove dust and gases from the roasters, which often became clogged with asbestos and nickel dust and workers had to use a shovel to break the crust. Sometimes, dust would enter the air if a cleaning machine wasn’t working properly. Over the years, the worker was exposed to nickel, arsenic, sulphur dioxide and coke in addition to asbestos.

After the worker retired, the employer gradually implemented stricter protocols on cleaning and removing asbestos dust. The insulation on the roasters was changed to fiberglass and workers wore respirators when cleaning up old asbestos.