The Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta has received 3,209 COVID-19 claims since the pandemic started.
Of those claims, 2,164 have been accepted, 646 rejected and 399 are either pending or under review.
“In the case of a pandemic, it’s widely accepted that most of the general population is at risk of exposure,” WCB Alberta spokesperson Ben Dille said.
“What we are looking for is whether or not the actual employment environment, the job itself, led to an increased risk of exposure.”
The manufacturing sector has the highest claim volume with 1,260 — followed by education, health and municipal government with 1,044 in those sectors combined.
At the bottom of the list, construction with 60 claims and oil and gas with 33 claims.
“What we’re seeing for the majority of cases is that they are relatively short — 10, 14 days — and certainly there’s other ones that have longer term impacts on the individual,” Dille explained.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 represents 32,000 Alberta workers, mainly in food processing and retail sectors.
“It’s been a rough go — especially for members in the meatpacking plants,” said Devin Yeager, the food processing, packaging, and manufacturing coordinator at UFCW 401.
COVID-19 outbreaks at facilities like Cargill and JBS have been big contributors to the manufacturing sector claims.
“Cargill currently sits at about — cumulative numbers — 850 union members that were diagnosed with COVID and in JBS it’s about 600,” Yeager explained.
Cargill is the site of one of the biggest COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada with more than 1,500 cases linked to the plant.
“A number of our members have passed away because of COVID-19,” Yeager said.
“We’ve had other members that have suffered severe additional medical problems with strokes or things of that nature.”
Yeager encourages people to apply for workers’ compensation, even if they’ve been paid by employers, or any other benefit.
“We don’t know, frankly, what’s going to happen in five years, 10 years, what the long-term effects are going to be on people’s health,” Yeager said.
“We want to ensure that everything is documented through WCB.”
He adds it’s about making sure everyone is protected.
“In some of our other facilities that haven’t seen the initial outbreak that we saw in April and May, we’re starting to see outbreaks in those facilities now,” Yeager said.
The WCB is also working to provide as much support as possible.
“Our board recently took steps to implement cost relief for employers, because we know that the number of claims coming through can have a significant impact — particularly on those where they’ve had outbreaks,” Dille said.
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