Occupational diseases are caused by exposure to physical, chemical, or biological agents in the workplace. This chapter provides an overview of both Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 occupational disease claims that were registered and allowed by WSIB in 2020. In 2020, the WSIB allowed about 23,000 occupational disease claims which made up over $87 million in benefit costs*.  Occupational disease claims are grouped into four major categories: long latency illnesses, noise induced hearing loss, chronic exposures and effects, and acute exposures and effects. Over the last year, the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus has made up 44 per cent of allowed occupational disease claims while having the highest benefit costs. 

* Benefit costs represent the costs associated with the claim as of March 31, 2021.

Long latency illness claims

Many occupational diseases do not develop until a long time after the harmful exposure took place.  In long latency illnesses, sometimes the symptoms may not show up until many years after an individual was exposed to the disease causing agent.  While long latency illness claims made up only two per cent of all allowed occupational diseases registered at the WSIB in 2020, they include some of the most serious illnesses and make up 29 per cent of the allowed benefit costs. One example is mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the pleura or peritoneum that can develop from exposure to asbestos that occurred decades ago.  

The five leading diagnoses are mesothelioma, skin cancer, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pleural plaques, which make up 60 per cent of all allowed long latency illness claims over the past year. 

The five sectors with the most claims are Schedule 2, manufacturing, governmental and related services, construction, and mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction. Of these five sectors, 32 per cent of allowed long latency claims come from Schedule 2.

Noise induced hearing loss claims

Noise induced hearing loss is a permanent loss of hearing, usually in both ears, caused by inner ear damage due to long, continued, or repeated hazardous noise exposure. This type of hearing loss happens over time and can take many years to develop. Often noise induced hearing loss does not show up until people are older and retired from the workforce.

Noise induced hearing loss claims that were registered and allowed in 2020 made up about 20 per cent of all allowed occupational disease claims. Over the last year, the top five sectors for these types of claims are manufacturing, construction, Schedule 2, transportation, and mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction.  Manufacturing had 23 per cent of allowed noise induced hearing loss claims.

Claims for chronic exposures and effect

Occupational diseases in this category involve medical conditions that develop slowly over time from prolonged or chronic exposures in the workplace. The disease and symptoms often show up while the person is still working in the place where they had the exposure. 

Chronic exposures happen through inhalation or skin absorption.  Conditions like dermatitis and some respiratory diseases can be caused by constantly being exposed to chemical or biological agents in the workplace.  For example, some people who use latex at work later develop an allergy to it. Dermatitis claims make up 58 per cent of allowed chronic exposures and effects cases.

Claims for acute exposures and effect

Acute exposures and effects describe medical conditions that happen right after the person is exposed to a chemical, biological or physical agent at work.  In 2020, these claims made up 27 per cent of allowed occupational disease claims while having the lowest benefit costs. Exposures to infectious disease from getting bit or being stuck by a needle make up most of these claims.

In the last year, the Schedule 2 and government and related services had the highest number of these claims, and made up 50 per cent of claims in this category.

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Data in By the Numbers: 2020 WSIB Statistical Report may not match previously published results. This is due to factors such as data maturity, updated definitions and methodologies, and rounding. Data in By the Numbers is matured three months, with the exception of benefit payments, which represents cash paid during the year, to or on behalf of people injured at work and are not matured three months following year-end. Percentages may not add up due to rounding.