Decision #103/99 - Type: Workers Compensation
An Appeal Panel review was held on June 10, 1999, at the request of the claimant.
Whether the claim is acceptable.
That the claim is acceptable.
On November 16, 1998, the claimant stated that he was working on a scaffold and bumped his hand on a steel beam while employed as an electrician. A short time later he noticed his left ring finger going numb and cold. The Employer's Report of Injury, dated December 2, 1998, indicated it did not know how the injury happened and questioned if it was work related. Subsequent medical information consisted of the following:
- a hospital emergency report, dated November 17, 1998, noted that the left ring finger was blue and painful. The diagnosis was "? ulnar artery damage".
- a Doctor's First Report, dated November 17, 1998, diagnosed the claimant with an ischemic finger.
- on December 7, 1998, a vascular surgeon stated the following: "Essentially I think he has got symptoms of hypothenar syndrome which is seen in labourers. His Allan's test is markedly positive on the left side with a difference in ulnar collateral circulation. This is likely due somehow to his job requirements and possibly traumatizing the base of his left hand. His left fourth finger is bluish and he may have embolized an endartery (sic) in that area. In any case there is nothing surgical to do...".
In a memorandum, dated December 2, 1998, a WCB adjudicator recorded her telephone conversation with the claimant in which the claimant indicated that he had been working without gloves all day and that he had bumped his hand on a steel beam. The claimant did not remember bumping his finger, but he bumped the palm of his hand against a beam at around 2:00 p.m.. He did not feel the pain right away, but noticed pain and coldness in his hand after his coffee break around 3:00 p.m.
The claimant stated that he had no prior problems with his left hand or his finger and has not seen a doctor in several years. He did not return to work because his physician told him to keep his hand away from the cold.
In a memorandum, dated December 16, 1998, a WCB medical advisor recorded a telephone conversation that he had with the claimant's treating physician. The treating physician advised that the claimant's left ring finger had become acutely ischemic as a result of an acute vascular event. He also commented that the acute vascular event involving the left fourth digit did not occur as a result of the mechanism of injury described on file. The treating physician questioned an episode of cold induced vasospasm of the digit. Following this discussion, the WCB medical advisor was left with the impression that "the acute vascular event involving the left fourth digit, with the associated ischemic complications, did not likely occur as a consequence of the mechanism of injury reported on file."
On December 31, 1998, the claimant was informed by the WCB that no responsibility would be accepted for his claim as the weight of evidence did not establish an injury occurring at work.
On January 14, 1999, the claimant provided the WCB with further details regarding his job duties. He was fastening a wire to a tin and concrete surface on the day of accident. This required using a hammer drill to make holes for fasteners to be set into. He used both hands equally that day. The claimant also mentioned to the first two treating physicians that he had not bumped his finger but the palm of his hand was tender. The claimant did not mention tenderness in his palm to the specialist but the specialist attributed the problem right away to the palm of his hand.
The case was then reviewed by a second WCB medical advisor on January 14, 1999. The medical advisor was of the view that the claimant's difficulties were not work related.
On February 12, 1999, the case was considered by Review Office following the receipt of an appeal from the claimant. The Review Office confirmed that the claim was not acceptable. The Review Office took the view that the claimant's initial reports to his attending physician, the hospital where he was initially treated, and his report to the employer, did not describe any event which may have caused the injury resulting in symptoms of hypothenar syndrome. The claimant subsequently appealed this decision and a non-oral file review was held on June 10, 1999.
Section 4(1) of the Workers Compensation Act (the Act) provides for the payment of compensation benefits to a worker where he or she sustains personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment.
"Where, in any industry within the scope of this Part, personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment is caused to a worker, compensation as provided by this part shall be paid by the board out of the accident fund, subject to the following subsections."
In accordance with this section, the Panel must, initially, be satisfied that there has been an accident within the meaning of Section 1(1) of the Act. That is, "a chance event occasioned by a physical or natural cause; and includes
- (a) A wilful and intentional act that is not the act of the worker,
- (i) event arising out of, and in the course of, employment, or
(ii) thing that is done and the doing of which arises out of, and in the course of, employment, and
(c) an occupational disease
and as a result of which a worker is injured."
Prior to our review of the file, the claimant provided the Appeal Commission with a written argument bearing the date of March 19th, 1999. In this document, the claimant described in detail the various duties that he performed routinely as an electrician as well as those duties he performed on the injury date.
"While I am right hand dominant it is worth noting that as an electrician I work with both hands equally. There are few, tasks that I perform that do not involve the use of both hands. We work extensively on ladders and or scaffolding installing, maintaining, repairing and replacing electrical conduit, wire, fixtures and mechanisms. In order to perform the aforementioned tasks one has to use a myriad of hand tools, regular drill and a hammer drill. My hands are exposed to forces and trauma all day long.
One has to endure a significant amount of vibration when using a hammer drill. The hand being used to drill would be predicated upon the location of the ladder etc. One would be using both hands when drilling with the greatest amount of pressure being applied by the hand which is holding the pistol grip depressing the trigger. Again, the location being drilled would dictate which hand was on the trigger.
On the injury date we were working outside at Springhill Farms drilling overhead into a concrete ceiling throughout the day. We were using a hammer drill to drill into the concrete which required forceful gripping of the drill using whatever hand was in the proper position to do so. My hands would have been exposed to a combination of cold temperatures and the vibration and jarring associated with the use of a hammer drill. The walls were not finished yet so in essence we were working outside. This exposed the workers to cold temperatures while working on a scaffold which may well have contributed to the problem.
I wish to point out that at the commencement of my shift on November 16, 1998 my left hand was fine. After working extensively with the hammer drill, performing several of my tasks and banging my hand my finger became sore." (Emphasis ours)
In addition to the claimant's evidence, we also attached weight to the opinion expressed by the treating vascular surgeon. Following his consultation, the surgeon reported to the attending physician: "Essentially I think he has got symptoms of hypothenar syndrome which is seen in labourers. His Allan's test is markedly positive on the left side with a difference in ulnar collateral circulation. This is likely due to somehow to his job requirements and possibly traumatizing the base of his left hand. His left fourth finger is bluish and he may have embolized an endartery in that area."
We accept the mechanism of injury as described by the claimant as well as, the opinions expressed by the treating surgeon. Accordingly, we find, on a balance of probabilities, that the claimant's acute vascular event arose out of and in the course of his employment. Therefore, the claim is hereby acceptable.
R. W. MacNeil, Presiding Officer
A. Finkel, Commissioner
R. Frisken, Commissioner
Recording Secretary, B. Miller
R. W. MacNeil - Presiding Officer
(on behalf of the panel)
Signed at Winnipeg this 13th day of July, 1999