What is the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB)?
If you’re injured at work, WCB compensates you for lost wages as the result of being hurt. It also helps coordinate your health care and other things you might need because of your work-related injury. WCB’s goal is to reduce the impact workplace-related injuries have in Alberta.
WCB was created by the provincial government under the Workers’ Compensation Act. It’s funded by almost 170,000 Alberta employers whose industries are WCB eligible.
Workplace injuries are a fact of life, even if everyone at the worksite is following the health and safety rules and protocols. Some workplace injuries obviously need treatment right away. But other times an injury may not seem so bad or might start to develop over time. Don’t be tempted to ignore it and just keep working.
No matter what the injury, it’s important that you report it right away to your supervisor. It’s your right to get benefits for work-related injuries no matter who is at fault for the accident. Also, your employer is required by law to report workplace injuries to the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), and serious injuries, illnesses, and incidents to Occupational Health and Safety.
Injuries can develop over time
Some injuries don’t hurt when they happen but can cause problems over time. For example:
- If you’re a paramedic, or if you’ve experienced workplace harassment, you might develop post-traumatic stress (a psychological injury) as the result of what you’ve experienced on the job.
- You might not think your back pain is a work-related injury, but it could be if you spent years lifting heavy things at work.
- One injury can lead to another. If you hurt your ankle at work, it might cause you to walk differently and that could lead to hip pain. That hip pain is also a work-related injury.
You and your employer have responsibilities to make sure you get the treatment, benefits, and support you might need.
Reporting your injury
Even if you don’t think your injury is serious enough for medical attention, take these steps if you get hurt at work:
- Tell your supervisor. Give them the details of your injury.
- Get first aid and see a doctor if needed.
- Make notes. Write down what you were doing when you got hurt, the symptoms you feel, and how serious they are.
- Fill out a WCB Worker Report of Injury form [pdf]. WCB offers several ways to submit this form.
The more detail you include on your WCB report form—how you were injured, what kind of injury you have, etc.—the better a doctor can help you. Your report could also help your employer improve the workplace injury prevention plan. This is the best way to stop the same type of thing from happening again, to you or a co-worker.
The WCB injury report form you complete is your claim. WCB reviews it and decides whether you’re eligible for benefits and services to help you recover. You might work with one person at WCB, or several, depending on your injury. You might have a caseworker who will help you develop a return-to-work plan.
It’s against the law for your employer to ask you not to report an injury. If you feel pressure to not report your injury, fill out this confidential WCB injury report form.
If your claim isn’t accepted, you can appeal the decision.
Your supervisor must also fill out a WCB form and contact WCB if the treatment you need is anything beyond first aid, or if you miss time from work as a result.
What kinds of injuries does WCB cover?
“Reporting your injury, even if it seems minor, means there’s a documented record of what’s happened. That could be really important in the future. Say you sprain your ankle when you’re on the job. Your recovery is fairly easy, and you don’t miss any work. 2 years later you hurt the same ankle because it’s weak. Even if this didn’t happen at work, WCB records of your first sprained ankle might show this second injury is work-related and you might be eligible for benefits or services.”
You can get help for injuries and diseases that happen at work, or are the result of your work, including:
- Traumatic injuries—things like broken bones or burns.
- Injuries you get from doing the same task over and over again.
- Diseases caused by a condition at your workplace. For example, losing your hearing because of loud noise on the job.
- Re-injuries from hurting an old work-related injury.
Injuries that aren’t covered by WCB
- Injuries or diseases you had before you started your job.
- Injuries you get because you purposely didn’t follow rules or procedures.
- Injuries that happen when you’re not at work.
Some jobs or industries aren’t automatically covered [pdf] by WCB. Those employers may apply to have their workers get coverage.
Modify your work to avoid injuries
Workers get repetitive strain when they do the same tasks again and again. It's a common injury for people working in manufacturing, construction, and office work. Take Doris for example. She works in a factory, standing all day on a hard floor. She does the same tasks repeatedly throughout her workday. Doris didn't have problems with her wrists and feet at first, but now they hurt most of the time.
Doris tells her employer about her pain, and she sees her doctor. Doris also tells the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), and they work with Doris' employer to make a modified work program to help Doris reduce her strain. Doris' employer now provides anti-fatigue mats and has changed her daily tasks. Now that Doris has the right equipment and variation in her workday, her wrists and feet feel better.
If you are at risk for repetitive strain injuries, work with your employer to improve how you do your tasks. For example:
- Provide stools so you have the option to sit some of the time.
- Put special mats on the floor.
- Make sure that tools and supplies are easy to reach.
- Find ways to use machines to do repetitive tasks.
- Take a few short breaks instead of 1 long break.
- Do other jobs around your workplace. Then you can try new tasks and use other muscles.
What types of WCB benefits can I receive?
If your WCB claim is accepted there are several things you might be eligible for, depending on your injury:
- Wages. 90% of your net earnings will be replaced if you have to take time off work.
- Medical treatments. Finding and paying for health care you need, such as medical tests, physiotherapy, prescriptions.
- Help if you’re seriously injured. Assistance with household tasks like personal care, every day tasks such as making meals or banking, house cleaning and lawncare, and any changes you need at home or to your vehicle.
- Travel and accommodations. Compensation if you have to travel for treatment, such as mileage, childcare, and meals.
- Return to work and re-employment. WCB will work with you and your employer to make sure your job is suitable, or to see if it can be modified accommodate you. If your injury prevents you from doing your old job, WCB will help you look for new work.
- Payment for permanent impairment. If you lose a body part, or any part of your body is changed because of your injury, you may be eligible for a lump-sum payment.
It’s up to you, your co-workers, your supervisor, and your employer to keep your worksite healthy and safe for everyone. It’s a partnership—each of you has an important role to play in preventing injuries. But the reality is that workplace injuries do happen. Nearly 50,000 injury claims are made in Alberta every year. If you get hurt at work, take the right steps to help you recover and get back on the job.