Effective date: December 1, 2013
Application: All heart attack claims on or after the effective date.
Policy subject: Decision making - Injuries
To establish adjudication guidelines for heart attack claims.
Unusual physical exertion or strain means the exertion or strain is unusual when compared to:
- An individual’s normal work duties, and
- Their active lifestyle outside of work.
Acute means a specific, dramatic and sudden incident.
Emergency response means those circumstances where firefighters attend a crisis situation as part of their duties. Examples include a fire or car crash.
Pre-existing condition means a non-work-related medical condition that existed prior to the work-related injury.
Under Section 20 of The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013 (the “Act”), the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) will determine:
- Whether a condition or death was a result of an injury, and
- Whether an injury has arisen out of or in the course of employment.
- Heart attack claims are work injuries when one of the following has occurred:
- The worker performed unusual physical exertions or strains within a few hours of the onset of heart attack symptoms. For example, an office worker who spends most of their time at a desk is required to move heavy office furniture.
- The worker experienced an acute emotional shock within a few hours of the onset of heart attack symptoms (POL 02/2017, Injuries – Psychological).
- The worker received an injury as a result of occupational hazards that placed unusual stress on the heart. For example:
- An electric shock.
- Chest injury, or
- The inhalation of harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide or methane.
- The worker had heart problems during medical treatment for a work injury. For example, reaction to anesthetic.
- Heart attack claims will typically require detailed file development. This will involve obtaining:
- All relevant medical information. This includes records of prior heart problems, and
- Details of the circumstances leading up to the initial onset of symptoms and the diagnosis of a heart attack.
- In certain instances a worker may not recognize the initial symptoms as an indicator of heart problems. This can cause a delay in the diagnosis. Coverage may be provided if:
- The diagnosis occurred within 24 hours of an unusual physical exertion or acute emotional shock, and
- The worker experienced symptoms within a few hours of the work event.
- When a firefighter has a heart attack within 24 hours of attending an emergency response, the WCB will determine the claim under POL 03/2020, Injuries – Firefighters.
- Factors such as pre-existing conditions and lifestyle may contribute to heart disease. As a result, each heart attack claim will be considered on its own merits. Review by a WCB Medical Consultant may be required (POL 12/2017, Pre-Existing Conditions – Aggravation or Acceleration).
- When a worker is found dead at a worksite, the WCB will determine the claim under POL 04/2014, Fatalities, Presumption.
(1) January 1, 2014. References updated in accordance with The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013.
(2) POL and PRO 12/2007, Injuries – Cardiac (effective March 1, 2006 to November 30, 2013)
(3) POL and PRO 04/2004, Injuries – Cardiac (effective August 1, 2004 to February 28, 2006).
(4) POL 31/72, Injuries – Cardiac (effective April 19, 1972 to July 31, 2004).
PRO 05/2013 Injuries – Heart Attack
POL 04/2017 Injuries – Occupational Disease
PRO 04/201 Injuries – Occupational Disease
POL 03/2020 Injuries – Firefighters
PRO 03/2020 Injuries – Firefighters
POL 12/2017 Pre-Existing Condition – Aggravation or Acceleration
POL 02/2017 Injuries – Psychological
POL 04/2014 Fatalities, Presumption