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  • Writer's pictureDavid K Law

The Ottawa transit tragedy

Updated: May 23, 2020

On January 11, 2019 a tragic rush hour bus accident took the lives of three people and injured many more. People working at the scene, and those commuting from and to work at the time, were affected. Their employers will have questions about how to respond. This is some guidance.

Persons involved or witness to a severely traumatic incident may suffer physical and/or psychological effects. If they are or believe themselves affected, they should be encouraged to seek medical attention.

Persons injured who were present at the station or on the bus, as part of their duty to the employer, may have entitlement under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act (if their employment is covered by that Act.) Such incidents should be reported to the WSIB with a Form 7, under the normal reporting rules.

A person would be “in the course of employment” while using transit, if their duties required them to be present. That would include persons doing deliveries or traveling to a supplier or customer, as part of their work.

If in doubt about whether an injury is reportable, seek advice. It is preferable to report the event (raising any questions you may have about work-relatedness) than to fail to report.

Persons engaged in their daily commute from or to work, are not typically considered to be “in the course of employment” while commuting. Thus, injuries sustained would not be regarded as work-related. However, there are steps to take in such an instance.

Individuals unable to work due to non work-related injuries may be eligible for:

· temporary Employment Insurance benefits – a Record of Employment should be issued if the person’s illness interrupts their active work;

· sick leave (time off for injury or illness);

· sick pay (salary during sick leave, if the employer has such a program and the person has sick pay banked);

In addition, persons with more prolonged inability to work, due to a non work-related health issue, may apply for disability benefits from an insurance carrier, if the employer or individual has such coverage.

Also, persons with family members injured by the incident may be entitled to emergency leave.

Remember finally that the terms of written employment contracts, organizational policies and applicable collective agreements, will have a bearing on decisions made in these cases.

It is our hope that no one in your employ has been hurt or suffered serious loss.

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