Scientific Advisory Table on Occupational Disease Terms of Reference

1) Background

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 establishes that a worker who experiences an occupational disease “due to the nature of their employment” is entitled to the same WSIB benefits and services as a worker who sustains a “personal injury by accident”. Due to the complex nature of occupational diseases, the WSIB relies on scientific evidence to inform its occupational disease policy development (which includes scheduling of occupational diseases within regulation)

Two recent reports, the 2019 KPMG, “Value for Money Audit Report: Occupational Disease and Survivor Benefit Program” (“VFMA”), and the 2020 report of Dr. Demers, “Using Scientific Evidence and Principles to Help Determine the Work-relatedness of Cancer” (“Demers Report”), made recommendations to improve the WSIB’s approach to occupational diseases with both suggesting that the WSIB establish a scientific advisory table.

In response to these recommendations, the WSIB developed an Occupational Disease Strategy, which includes the formation of a scientific advisory table to support the WSIB in its gathering and reviewing of scientific evidence for the purposes of occupational disease policy development.

 2) Objective

To ensure the WSIB is positioned to support those with occupational disease, the WSIB established the Scientific Advisory Table on Occupational Disease (the "Table") to provide scientific expert advice to the WSIB  to support policy development and scheduling.

The Table’s membership represents the scientific disciplines most relevant to occupational disease to ensure that their qualifications and extensive experience optimize the quality and comprehensiveness of advice provided.  The members will assist the WSIB in obtaining high quality scientific evidence that may lead to further identification and recognition of occupational diseases in regulation and policy, or adjustments to policy guidance as appropriate. This approach is intended to support timely and consistent decision making.

By providing scientific advice, an advisory table will help the WSIB fulfill its legislative obligations to workers, and to survivors of deceased workers, who experience an occupational disease due to the nature of their employment. 

3) Mandate of the Table

The Table’s mandate is to provide expert advice to the WSIB on occupational disease issues which reflects current medical and scientific knowledge, to support policy development and scheduling.  The Table will provide advice on:

  • the scope of scientific reviews in order to answer specific questions at hand;
  • the experts that could be consulted;
  • identifying potential peer-reviewers and the clarification of the reviewer's comments;
  • assessment and potential options in the case of contradictory opinions; and
  • general ad hoc occupational disease issues.

4) Composition of the Table

A. Membership

The Table will consist of eight members: seven voting members including the Chair of the Table (the “Chair”), a member from Ontario Health (Cancer Care Ontario), a member from Public Health Ontario, and one non-voting WSIB member. Five of the voting members will be drawn from scientific disciplines relevant to occupational disease (e.g., Occupational Epidemiology, Toxicology, Occupational Hygiene, and Occupational Medicine).

B. Length of Appointment

All members, including the selection of the Chair, will be appointed by the WSIB and will serve at the WSIB's discretion. The WSIB will appoint the combination of members which, in its opinion, provides the blend of qualifications and experiences most likely to optimize the quality of advice provided by the Table.

The WSIB intends the tenure of the members to vary, to ensure the appropriate available expertise and continuity from year-to-year. In general, a member’s tenure is expected to be two to three years. A member's tenure in the role of Chair is expected to be two or more years.

As appointments may be renewed, extended, or terminated by the WSIB in its discretion, the actual tenure for any member may be more or less than described above. Either the WSIB or a member may terminate the appointment in accordance with Section H.

C. Voting Member Qualifications

Voting members must:

  1. possess a professional designation or doctorate degree from a recognized institution in at least one of the following disciplines: occupational epidemiology, toxicology, occupational medicine, or occupational hygiene, or possess some other appropriate professional designation;
  2. be in active, or recently active practice and/or research in such settings and with such experience as may be desired by the WSIB (e.g., university, hospital or academic settings with critical appraisal expertise);
  3. have extensive experience (10 or more years) in their discipline, in practice or in research; or
  4. have been appointed by Cancer Care Ontario or Public Health Ontario.

Where the WSIB identifies the need, voting members may be sought with other suitable qualifications.

All members will be required to review and synthesize considerable volumes of information, and be able to successfully discuss complex issues. Success will require effective communication skills (particularly strong listening skills), constructive teamwork, and the appreciation of diverse viewpoints and opinions of other members and subject matter experts.

D. WSIB Background Checks

The WSIB conducts background checks in respect of many matters. Members will be required to cooperate with WSIB regarding background checks as needed and this may impact the continuation of the member's appointment may be conditional or limited.

E. Conflict of Interest

Each member will read and become familiar with the WSIB's Code of Business Ethics as issued from time-to-time (the “Code”) and will behave in accordance with it, ensuring that their behaviour does not place the WSIB or its personnel in breach of their obligations under the Code. Members seeking grants from the WSIB may have their applications subject to additional scrutiny.

Any potential or perceived conflicts of interest specifically related to the work of this Table must be declared, including, but not limited to, other work being done related to support research, governments, workplaces (e.g., employers or labour), providers, or manufacturers. Such activities do not inherently constitute a conflict of interest sufficient to prohibit a member from fulfilling their role and responsibilities as a member so long as the member immediately discloses such activities to the Chair (who will inform the Table and the WSIB’s Vice President of Policy and Consultation Services). Until the WSIB has reviewed the potential or perceived conflict of interest and instructed the Chair and the member, the member will not participate in discussions relating to such topic (and, for greater certainty, will not influence other members or make any recommendations pertaining to such topic). Where required by the Chair, the member will not  be present during such discussions.

F.  Role and Responsibilities of Chair

In addition to fulfilling the same role and responsibilities as each other member, the Chair will fulfil the following responsibilities:

  1. if requested by the WSIB, recommend to the WSIB candidates for appointment as members to the Table;
  2. in consultation with the WSIB, schedule dates and times of Table meetings;
  3. in consultation with the WSIB, prepare the agenda for each Table meeting;
  4. at the commencement of each meeting, ask members if they have any conflicts of interest to disclose and upon a conflict being declared, ensure that the member with the conflict of interest does not participate in and does not influence discussions or voting relating to the particular topic in respect of which the member has the conflict of interest (and, for greater certainty, does not vote on any recommendations relating to that topic);
  5. upon approval by the Table of the draft meeting minutes provided by the WSIB, sign the minutes, and forward a copy to each member and the WSIB;
  6. consider any requests by a member for approval for an upcoming extended absence (for three or more meetings) prior to exercising the Chair's discretion to approve (or disapprove) of such absence;
  7. provide written reports to the WSIB whenever:
    1. the Chair has approved a request by a member for an extended absence, and the length and reasons therefore; or
    2. the Chair believes it is in the best interest of the Table that a particular individual no longer be a voting member, recommending to the WSIB that the member's appointment be terminated;
  8. provide written and verbal status reports to, and as requested by, the WSIB, of the activities of the Table;
  9. meet annually with the Vice President of Policy and Consultation Services of the WSIB (or designate) (and at such other times as the WSIB may request) to provide a status report on the work of the Table, and respond to any questions of the Vice President of Policy and Consultation Services;
  10. act as the key liaison between the WSIB and the Table;
  11. as requested by the WSIB speak to various groups (such as the WSIB's board of directors, groups of WSIB staff, and external stakeholder groups) regarding the Table and its work; and
  12. review any requests by a member for approval to publish any academic articles relating to the work of the Table, advise the WSIB as to the Chair's views relating to such articles, and advise the member of the WSIB's decision.

G. Absence of Chair

The Chair, with the Vice President of Policy and Consultation Services’ agreement, may appoint an alternate member to fulfil one or more duties in the Chair’s absence.

H. Role and Responsibilities of Members

The appointment of each member is conditional upon the member accepting the appointment and any terms and conditions to which it is subject, including these Terms of Reference. At a minimum, the member:

  1. will comply with the Terms of Reference of the Table which is in effect from time to time;
  2. will behave in accordance with the WSIB's Code of Business Ethics & Behaviour;
  3. will avoid any conflict of interest, and will disclose any conflict of interest in accordance with these Terms of Reference;
  4. will attend an orientation session conducted by the WSIB after the member's appointment to the Table;
  5. acknowledges that:
    1. the name and curriculum vitae of the member;
    2. the minutes of the Table meetings; and
    3. the advice and recommendations of the Table
    4. may be made publicly available by the WSIB, including by the WSIB on its website;
  6. subject to reasonable limitations, will be indemnified by the WSIB for any liability incurred by member by reason of being or having been a member of the Table;
  7. will notify the Chair and the WSIB's Vice President of Policy and Consultation Services, either in writing or orally (with a confirmatory letter), of any circumstance preventing the member's fulfilment of their role;
  8. will refer to the both the WSIB's Vice President, Communications & Intergovernmental Affairs, and Vice President, Policy and Consultation Services, all requests for comment on or information about the work of the Table;
  9. will bring to the attention of the Chair any potential agenda items which he or she believes should be considered by the Table, or any concerns which the member has regarding a fellow member;
  10. all non-WSIB members of the Table will be entitled to a per diem, as set within their offer letter. It will be up to each member to confirm with the WSIB whether they wish to receive a per diem, and will be responsible for complying with any conflict of interest or business ethics requirements specific to their own employment (e.g. public servants). Any decisions to decline a per diem, will be clearly stipulated in the confirmation letter provided by the WSIB. Any reimbursement of the Member for pre-approved expenses incurred will be done in accordance with the WSIB’s policy for business travel.

Subject to the member's confidentiality obligations, if the member wishes to make presentations to third parties or submit for publication any articles (either, a "Proposed Publication") in connection with or related to the activities or recommendations of the Table, the member will provide a copy of such Proposed Publication to the Chair for review by, and to request approval from, the Chair and the WSIB. The WSIB will require the Chair to review such Proposed Publication for methodological and scientific rigor, and to provide the WSIB with a copy of the Proposed Publication together with the Chair's views concerning it. Where the Chair advises the WSIB that the Chair is prepared to approve such Proposed Publication, the WSIB Representative will consider both the Proposed Publication, and the Chair's comments, and will advise the Chair and the member as to whether or not the WSIB approves the Proposed Publication. The member will not present to third parties, or submit for publication, or publish, any Proposed Publication without the prior written approval of the Chair and the WSIB of such Proposed Publication. Approval by the Chair and the WSIB of a Proposed Publication does not in any way relieve the member of the member's obligations to secure all rights (from the WSIB, other Table members, or third parties) necessary to permit the member to present or publish the Proposed Publication. It will be in the WSIB's sole discretion whether to approve the Proposed Publication, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the WSIB may elect not to approve the  Proposed Publication where the WSIB has concerns about the methodological and/or scientific rigor of the Proposed Publication, or where, in the WSIB's opinion, presentation or publication of the Proposed Publication would tend to bring the WSIB or the Table into public disrepute, contempt, scandal, or ridicule or would tend to shock, insult or offend the community, or any group or class thereof.

The member may have access to information confidential to the WSIB which is clearly identified as confidential at the time of disclosure or which the member should have reasonably understood to be confidential ("WSIB Confidential Information"). The member will hold all WSIB Confidential Information and Personal Information (as defined in FIPPA, see below) in strict confidence, using not less than a reasonable standard of care, and will use such information only for the benefit of the WSIB. All such information must remain in Canada alone and must not be accessed from outside Canada. The WSIB is bound by the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.31, as amended ("FIPPA"). Upon request, the member will follow the WSIB's instructions regarding WSIB Confidential Information and Personal Information, and will return all Personal Information and WSIB Confidential Information. The WSIB is subject to the Open Data Directive as amended (the "ODD"), and data (as defined under the ODD) relating to this Agreement may be released or published by the Government of Ontario.

The member or the WSIB may terminate the member's appointment at any time by providing written notice of the termination to the other party and to the Chair concurrently. The member will provide at least four weeks' notice to permit the WSIB to appoint a replacement. Upon termination of this appointment, the member will return all WSIB property in the member's possession, including all confidential conformation.

I. Table Meetings

The Table will meet at least two times each calendar year. Each meeting will be of one half-day duration. Additional meetings or day-long meetings may be held at the call of the Chair as needed.

A majority of the voting members (including the Chair) will constitute a quorum for the purposes of being able to make recommendations regarding management or to conduct other business of the Table.

Where the Table determines that it has questions which require expertise not available within the members or the WSIB, the Chair will advise the WSIB and specify the particular expertise needed. To the extent reasonably possible, the WSIB will arrange and pay for a suitable expert to attend a subsequent Table meeting.

Every Table recommendation requires the affirmative vote of a majority of the voting members participating in the discussion on the particular matter being considered. Every voting member participating in the meeting must vote on the motion(s) for the adoption of each recommendation, except where they have declared a conflict of interest. For greater clarity, a voting member who participates in the discussion on a particular matter may not abstain from voting on such matter. The votes of the Chair will be counted.

Any Table action other than a Table recommendation requires the affirmative vote of a majority of the voting members present, whether or not any member abstains. The votes of the Chair will be counted and the Chair will decide any tied vote.

J. WSIB’s Role and Responsibilities

  1. The WSIB will retain authority to make all decisions relating to the advice provided by the Table.
  2. The WSIB will appoint all members of the Table. Appointments for voting-members will normally follow a transparent selection process which will periodically seek the nomination of qualified individuals, but the WSIB may also appoint members directly where necessary (e.g., to fill an unexpected vacancy). The WSIB may maintain a list of qualified candidates, including those who have previously expressed an interest in joining the Table.
  3. The WSIB will ensure appropriate WSIB representatives attend all Table meetings. These individuals will have appropriate policy and occupational disease expertise to ensure that specific knowledge of the compensation system and WSIB processes is available and considered during deliberations of the Table. These WSIB representatives will not be members of the Table and will not vote on any recommendations. They will, however, actively participate in discussions during meetings, and will obtain and present additional information and/or expert advice as requested by the Chair.
  4. The WSIB will assign appropriate staff to perform all administrative and clerical support functions necessary to ensure the effective and efficient operation of the Table, such as the performance of the following activities:
    1. preparing and submitting background materials for review by members prior to meetings;
    2. preparing draft minutes of all Table meetings, and forwarding them to the Table for approval;
    3. preparing and maintaining records of all recommendations made by, and advice given by the Table; and
    4. sessions may be held virtually to permit those members who do not live or work inside the greater Toronto Area, or as appropriate, to attend the meetings.
  5. The WSIB will ensure current members, their biographies, and the Table’s Terms of Reference and the Table’s mandate are posted on the WSIB website.
  6. At a minimum, the WSIB will provide an annual report to the WSIB Board of Directors. Consideration could also be given to making these reports public-facing by publishing them, or elements of them, on the WSIB website.

K. Amendment and Delegation

  1. These Terms of Reference may be amended at any time, and from time to time, upon the written approval of the WSIB's Vice President of Policy and Consultation Services, whereupon the amended Terms of Reference will replace and supersede the former Terms of Reference. A copy of the amended Terms of Reference will be provided to each member by the WSIB.
  2. The Vice President of Policy and Consultation Services may from time to time delegate in writing to one or more members of the WSIB's personnel any or certain of the WSIB's responsibilities under these Terms of Reference, except the authority to approve the amendment of these Terms of Reference. The WSIB will provide a copy of each such delegation to the Chair.