Frequently Asked Questions
The Office of the Worker Counsellor was established by the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour in 2009 to provide assistance, education and advocacy for workers dealing with the workers compensation or occupational health and safety systems in this province. The NS Fed receives funding from the WCB to operate the program. We have three people on staff. Kim Tanner is our Administrative Assistant, and she is usually the first person you’ll speak with when you call. Dean Tupper and Rachel Barbour are the “Worker Counsellors” who provide advice and assistance. Contact us if you have any questions.
The Office of the Worker Counsellor provides Assistance, Education and Advocacy relating to WCB and OH&S in Nova Scotia. Assistance:
- We assist anyone in Nova Scotia deal with the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) or the Occupational Health and Safety Division (OH&S).
- Sometimes it’s as simple as answering your questions. Other times we may attend meetings, make calls, or write letters on your behalf. Contact us and we’ll see what we can to do help.
- We have a terrific catalogue of workshops that we offer to union or community groups that want to learn more about WCB or OH&S.
- Contact us to discuss your needs or interests!
- We want to see improvements to the WCB and OH&S systems in Nova Scotia. We work with the WCB and the Department of Labour to advocate for changes that will improve the lives of workers in this province.
- Contact us if you have thoughts or ideas about how WCB and OH&S could be improved.
Our organization is operated and managed by the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour. We are not part of the Workers’ Compensation Board. You should know that the NS Fed does receive funding from the Workers Compensation Board to operate our organization. But we are entirely independent from the WCB, and we are here to assist workers.
No. The Office of the Worker Counsellor doesn’t have any lawyers on staff. That means we don’t provide legal advice or opinions, or represent people in appeals or at court. Our staff is very experienced and knowledgeable about workers compensation and occupational health and safety. We’re here to provide lay advice to help guide you through the system. But if you want a legal opinion, representation or advice, you should contact a lawyer yourself.
We take your privacy very seriously. With very few exceptions we won’t share anything with anyone else unless we have your permission to do so. With your permission we can contact WCB on your behalf. We will share information with them in order to support your claim. If you have concerns, you are welcome to contact us anonymously. This can make it more difficult for us to assist, but we’ll always do our very best. It’s important that you know there are some circumstances that we can’t keep private, no matter what. If we believe there is a risk you may harm yourself we will report those threats to keep you safe. As well, if you make threats towards someone else – for example WCB or an employee there - we must report them to WCB and/or the appropriate authorities.
Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) is a “multidisciplinary field concerned with the safety, health and welfare of people at work” (Wikipedia). Every jurisdiction in Canada has Occupational Health and Safety Laws that outline the rights and responsibilities of workers, employers and others to keep a workplace safe. In Nova Scotia we have the Occupational Health and Safety Act. These laws are administered by the Department of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Division.
No one should suffer injuries or die just to make a living. The Occupational Health and Safety laws in Nova Scotia outline everyone’s rights and responsibilities to keep workplaces safe. We can help you understand your right to a safe workplace, and how to prevent injuries to yourself or others. We can help you talk to your supervisor about any concerns, and we can explain the powers and rights you have to make a safe workplace. Calling us before anything happens might prevent injuries in the first place. Some of the things we can do include:
- Answer questions
- Explain your legal rights and responsibilities
- Explain your employer’s legal rights and responsibilities
- Show you how to refuse unsafe work
- Tell you want to do if you’ve been injured at work
- Provide OH&S education to you, your coworkers, and your employer
- Help you if you’ve been penalized for raising safety issues at work
In Nova Scotia the Occupational Health and Safety Act was passed by the Provincial Legislature. The Department of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Division, administers the Act. But remember, it is up to every single one of us to know our rights and responsibilities and to make sure workplaces are safe.
In Canada approximately 1000 workers are killed every year at work. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people are injured, disabled, or made sick because of work. This isn’t acceptable. We believe no one should be required to take unnecessary risks just to make a living. The right to a safe and healthy workplace is one that has been fought for over the ages. It’s important to continue standing up for those rights, and to keep fighting for improvements.
Every worker in Nova Scotia has the following fundamental health and safety rights:
- The Right to Know – We have the right to know about hazards in our workplace, and to the training we need to keep us safe.
- The Right to Participate – In Nova Scotia everyone has a role to play in Occupational Health and Safety in our workplaces. Workers have the right to participate and be involved. They may join OH&S committees, or may discuss issues, question and ideas with their employer.
- The Right to Refuse – Every individual has the right to refuse to perform work that they believe is unsafe. The law requires that a certain process be followed when we exercise this right. Check out our page on how to refuse unsafe work. Or call us to find out more.
- The Right to No Discriminatory Action – The law very clearly says that employers cannot retaliate against workers who exercise their OH&S rights. If you’re worried you might get in trouble for refusing work or for asking questions, contact us. We can explain what to do!
If there’s a safety problem at work, the law outlines what you should do to address it.
- Talk to your supervisor. Often they can solve the problem for you right away.
- If your supervisor doesn’t solve your problem, talk to your Joint Occupational Health and Safety Representative. (If you don’t know who your representative is give us a call and we’ll help you find out).
- If your problem isn’t solved by your supervisor or your representative within a reasonable time frame, the law says you must report the safety concern to the Department of Labour – Occupational Health and Safety Division. You can reach them any time at 1-800-952-2687.
The law says your employer can’t penalize you for exercising your safety rights. If you’re worried about addressing safety concerns the law protects you. Call us if you want more information.
You have the right to refuse unsafe work. But it's important to follow the right process. See our instructions on how to refuse unsafe work here. If you have any questions or problems, don’t hesitate to give us a call!
Workers Compensation is a system that was adopted across Canada in the early 1900s. Every jurisdiction in Canada now has its own workers compensation system. Workers compensation was adopted because the old system of suing employers wasn’t working. Lawsuits are expensive. Employers had ways of escaping liability. And injured workers or their families were being left without any support or help. These problems led to the “historic compromise”. Workers gave up their right to sue their employer in exchange for an independent, no fault and stable workers compensation system. If you’d like to know more about the history and structure of workers compensation, feel free to contact us!
Dealing with the Workers Compensation Board can be stressful and confusing. Sometimes it feels like there’s no one looking out for you. We can guide you through the process and make sure you’re getting what you’re entitled to. We’re here to be on the workers side. Some of the things we can do include:
- Answer questions
- Talk to the Case Worker on your behalf
- Send letters for you
- Attend meetings with you
- Assist with return to work planning
- Get WCB decision letters
- Provide WCB education to you, your coworkers and your employer
- Help file appeals
There are three things you must do right away!
- Tell your employer about your injury as soon as possible.
- Complete a WCB Injury Report with your employer. (If your employer won't do this, contact us and we’ll tell you how to do it yourself).
- See a doctor. Make sure you tell them you were hurt at work
See our instructions on how to file a claim here. If you have any questions or problems, don’t hesitate to give us a call!
If you've reported an injury to your employer, in most cases they have a legal duty to help you file a WCB claim. But sometimes employers don't want to file a claim, or they think they don't have to do so. If you've reported an injury but your employer says they won't file a WCB claim, contact our office and we'll tell you what to do. REMEMBER! Never accept anyone's opinion about whether your condition is work related. Your employer, your doctor, and lots of others might tell you they don't think WCB will cover your injury. But only WCB can decide if you have a legitimate claim. If you have a problem you believe may be caused by work - even if you aren't sure - you should always file a claim with WCB and let them decide.
When in doubt, file a claim! Sometimes injuries or illnesses aren’t straight forward. They may happen over time or “creep up" on us. There may be more than one cause. If you have a problem you believe may be caused or contributed to by work, you should always file a WCB claim. Never accept someone else’s opinion about whether your condition is work related. No one - not your doctor, your employer or even our office - can tell you if your problem was caused by work. Only WCB can decide if you have a legitimate claim.
In the majority of cases WCB claims go smoothly and without problems. But it doesn’t hurt to call us to make sure. Our involvement can keep things running smoothly as time goes on. And the sooner we’re involved, the better.
Case Workers are supposed to return your call within two business days. But we know that this doesn’t always happen. Often Case Workers are overwhelmed by work and messages, and simply can’t get back to everyone within a reasonable time frame. Patience can wear thin when you’re never hearing back from anyone. If you aren’t hearing back, we suggest you start leaving messages through WCB’s Info Line at 902-491-8999 or 1-800-870-3331. This way your message is sure to be documented on your claim file, and there will be formal evidence that you called and you left a messages. If delays are getting unreasonable you can also ask to speak with the Case Worker’s manager. If you’re having difficulty reaching your Case Worker we can help. Contact us and we’ll work hard to make sure you get the information you need.
You are entitled to have representation and assistance when you’re dealing with WCB. You don’t need to worry about any negative repercussions of asking us for help. For the most part we work collaboratively with WCB. Most Case Workers appreciate having us involved because it can simplify things for them. In very rare cases Case Workers can be frustrated about having another party to deal with. This is often when you need representation the most, so we encourage you to call us.
If WCB makes a decision about benefits that you don’t agree with, you have a right to appeal that decision. You should ask for the decision in writing. Once you have a written decision letter you have 30 days to file an appeal. If you have any problems or questions, give us a call.