Decision #10/22 - Type: Workers Compensation


The worker is appealing the decision made by the Workers Compensation Board ("WCB") that his claim is not acceptable. A hearing was held on December 1, 2021 to consider the worker's appeal.


Whether or not the claim is acceptable.


That the claim is not acceptable.


The worker filed a Worker Incident Report with the WCB on March 19, 2019, reporting he sustained an injury to his right eye at work on March 6, 2019. The worker reported:

Where I work…we scan all envelopes and then it goes through the conveyor belt.

I was walking back and forth on the walkway. There are laser guns that scan bar codes for bigger parcels on the other side. The gun laser stays on continuosly (sic). They are always putting the guns sideways and sometimes they put it back in the holster. I realized on Mar 6 when I walked by it I could see the red light was pointing right at me. I looked at it I could see that the laser went in my eye. This is the first time I think the laser went in my eye.

In the Employer's Accident Report, filed March 14, 2019, the employer confirmed the worker reported the incident when it occurred and an investigation was initiated. During the investigation, the worker reported he was experiencing some blurred vision in his right eye, and he was escorted to a local hospital by a co-worker trained in first aid.

The report from the hospital of the worker's attendance on March 6, 2019 indicated the worker reported he had blurred vision in his right eye for three months, with no pain, photophobia or redness. After examining the worker, the attending physician noted decreased acuity in the right eye. The physician also queried whether the worker had a cataract and referred him to be seen by an ophthalmologist.

The worker returned to the hospital later that evening, where he was examined by the ophthalmologist who noted "There was a Grade 2 nuclear, Grade 2 vacuolar cataract in the right eye and a Grade 1 nuclear cataract in the left eye. The retinal exam and discs were entirely normal." The ophthalmologist diagnosed the worker with a cataract in his right eye, and noted that "Yes indeed bright lights can perhaps be causative; however, it is very common in elderly patients. Therefore, it would be very difficult to prove whether long-term laser light exposure is the cause of this."

On May 10, 2019, the worker's file was reviewed by a WCB ophthalmology consultant. The consultant noted that laser bar scanners are usually Class 2 laser products with a maximum laser power output of one milliwatt and are considered safe with respect to eye safety. The consultant opined that cataracts are not caused by lasers of this type; that looking directly into such a laser is similar to the effect of a camera flash; and that there would be no long-term alterations of eye integrity or vision. In summary, the WCB ophthalmology consultant noted the worker had reported a gradual reduction in the vision in his right eye prior to seeking medical attention on March 6, 2019 and that the cataract in the worker's right eye was fully medically accounted for as an age-related development.

On May 15, 2019, the WCB's Compensation Services advised the worker that they were unable to accept responsibility for his claim as a relationship between his diagnosis of a cataract and the March 6, 2019 workplace accident could not be established.

On June 25, 2019, the worker submitted additional information to the WCB, and on June 28, 2019, Compensation Services advised there would be no change to the earlier decision. Compensation Services confirmed that a relationship between exposure to a laser gun light and the diagnosis of cataracts could not be established. Compensation Services further advised that they could not establish that exposure to a laser gun light caused a strain or aggravation of the worker's pre-existing condition of a cataract.

On August 28, 2019, the worker requested that Review Office reconsider Compensation Services' decision. The worker disagreed with the WCB's decision to deny his claim, and noted that his treating ophthalmologist believed his injury was severe enough to be seen on an urgent basis. On October 15, 2019, the employer responded to the worker's request for reconsideration, providing photographs of the laser gun and confirming it was a Class 2 product with a maximum laser power output of one milliwatt. On October 21, 2019, the worker provided a response to the employer's submission.

On October 23, 2019, Review Office determined that the worker's claim was not acceptable. Review Office found that the information on file indicated the worker was experiencing right eye difficulties prior to the March 6, 2019 workplace accident. Review Office accepted the opinion of the WCB ophthalmology consultant, and concluded that they were unable to find a causal relationship between the diagnosis of a right eye cataract and the reported mechanism of injury, or that the evidence supported the cataract was structurally altered or enhanced as a result of the March 6, 2019 incident.

On November 28, 2019, the worker filed an appeal with the Appeal Commission and a hearing was arranged.


Applicable Legislation and Policy

As the worker was employed by a federal government agency or department, his claim is adjudicated under the Government Employees Compensation Act (the "GECA").

Subsection 4(1) of the GECA provides that an employee who is caused personal injury by an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, or is disabled by reason of an industrial disease due to the nature of the employment, is entitled to compensation.

"Accident" is defined in section 2 of the GECA to include "…a wilful and an intentional act, not being the act of the employee, and a fortuitous event occasioned by a physical or natural cause."

Pursuant to subsection 4(2) of the GECA, a federal government employee in Manitoba is entitled to receive compensation at the same rate and under the same conditions as are provided under The Workers Compensation Act of Manitoba (the "WCA").

The Appeal Commission and its panels are bound by the WCA, regulations and policies of the WCB's Board of Directors.

Subsection 4(1) of the WCA provides that where a worker suffers personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, compensation shall be paid.

WCB Policy, Pre-existing Conditions, addresses eligibility for compensation in circumstances where a worker has a pre-existing condition. The purpose of that Policy is stated, in part, as follows:

The Workers Compensation Board (WCB) will not provide benefits for disablement resulting solely from the effects of a worker's pre-existing condition as a pre-existing condition is not "personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment." The WCB is only responsible for personal injury as a result of accidents that are determined to be arising out of and in the course of employment.

Worker's Position

The worker was self-represented. The worker made a presentation at the hearing, and responded to questions from the panel.

The worker's position was that he sustained an injury on March 6, 2019 when his right eye was exposed to a laser light several times as he had to walk by it at work, and his claim should be accepted.

The worker indicated that his job involved walking back and forth beside a conveyor belt, where people are scanning items using a laser gun. The guns are supposed to be kept in a holster, but a laser gun was left lying sideways on March 6, 2019, with the light aiming right at him and hitting him as he walked by it.

The worker submitted that it is common knowledge that you do not point a laser at anyone as it can cause damage. The worker said he found out afterwards that the laser gun itself says not to point it at anyone in their face. The worker said he went to a toy store after the incident, and noted that the same thing was printed on several laser toys, not to point them at anyone or at anyone's eyes.

The worker also submitted while it had been indicated on file that the laser gun had been pointed at him, that was not true, and that he never said the laser gun was pointed at him. He indicated that the laser had just been left lying down sideways, and the light was always aiming at him as he walked by.

The worker further stated that he never said the laser hurt or damaged his eye. He had also never said that the light from the laser gave him a cataract. The light from the laser had, however, been bothering his eyes, and he submitted that he had a right to have his eye checked out as he had always been told that a laser could hurt a person's eye.

The worker submitted that before he got home after his first visit to the hospital, the ophthalmologist had called him to come back that night to see him. The worker submitted that the ophthalmologist must have thought there was a possible problem to call him so quickly and have him come back to the hospital that same evening.

Employer's Position

The employer was represented by a Human Resources Specialist, who participated in the hearing by teleconference. The employer's representative made a submission at the hearing and responded to questions from the panel.

The employer's position was that the definition of an accident has not been met in this case, and the worker's claim should not be accepted.

The employer's representative submitted that the worker's blurred vision was not related to the scanner that was used in the workplace. Referring to pictures which they had provided of the scanners, the representative confirmed that the scanners the employer uses are Class 2 products with a maximum laser output of one milliwatt. The representative noted that Class 2 lasers are considered safe for normal operation and emit visible light only, which is relatively weak. The representative noted that the scanner would not normally harm a person's eye unless the person deliberately stared directly into the beam, and that the normal blink reflex provides a natural protection from over-exposure.

The employer's representative noted that the worker stated he was walking by the scanner when the laser light went into his eye. The representative submitted that if the worker was in the process of walking and the laser light made contact with his eye, it would have been for a very short period of time only, as he was moving. If he had looked at the light, he would have had a natural blink response and a natural response to look away.

The representative noted that the worker indicated the March 6, 2019 incident was the first time the laser made contact with his eye, and that long-term laser light exposure was not an issue in this claim.

The representative further noted that both the ophthalmologist and the WCB ophthalmology consultant stated that the laser incident was not the cause of the worker's diagnosis of a cataract or the blurring vision he had experienced over the three-month period prior to the March 6, 2019 incident.

In conclusion, the employer's representative submitted that the worker's appeal and claim are not acceptable, and the worker is not entitled to compensation.


The issue before the panel is claim acceptability. For the worker's appeal to be successful, the panel must find, on a balance of probabilities, that the worker suffered an injury as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment. For the reasons that follow, the panel is unable to make that finding.

The worker clarified at the hearing that the laser light was not pointed or pointing at him, but was lying sideways on the conveyor and aiming in his direction. The worker said that he did not look at it, but as he was walking by, it could still hit him in the eye. The worker also indicated that the laser gun was placed on the conveyor belt during a break.

The panel accepts that the laser gun in question was a Class 2 product with a maximum laser output of one milliwatt. The panel further accepts that laser products in this classification are generally considered to be safe with respect to eye safety.

The panel acknowledges the concerns the worker expressed with respect to the potential harmful effects of a laser product. The panel finds, however, that the medical and other information which is before us does not support that this was a significant or tangible hazard in these circumstances.

In response to questioning from the panel, the worker stated that he did not say his right eye was injured or sore, but that "It was bothering me. That's the word, it was bothering me."

The worker acknowledged at the hearing that his eye was not still bothering him by the time he got to the hospital. While the worker advised that he experienced some discomfort as a result of his exposure to the laser light, the panel finds that this was not significant and that whatever discomfort he experienced had already resolved by the time he was taken to the hospital.

The panel does not accept that any exposure to a laser beam or discomfort arising therefrom would be sufficient to reasonably satisfy the definition of an accident under GECA. The panel finds that the evidence of the worker's exposure to the laser light in the circumstances of this case did not result in a personal injury and did not meet the requirements or definition of an accident under GECA.

Based on the foregoing, the panel finds, on a balance of probabilities, that the worker did not suffer an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment. The panel therefore finds that the worker's claim is not acceptable.

  The worker's appeal is dismissed.

Panel Members

M. L. Harrison, Presiding Officer
J. Peterson, Commissioner
M. Kernaghan, Commissioner

Recording Secretary, J. Lee

M. L. Harrison - Presiding Officer
(on behalf of the panel)

Signed at Winnipeg this 28th day of January, 2022