Early July 2009 was the first date of the WSIAT Tribunal. ArcelorMittal decided to not participate! So it was just the tribunal panel of three people, my Advocate Stan Gray, his assistant and myself. Our subpoenaed witness, an Occupational Hygienist, waited in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel.
The panel convened with a small half-inch binder of incidents in front of them on the table. As Stan brought forth his binder, a 4-inch green binder full of my record of incidents, the panel asked what it was. As Stan explained that ArcelorMittal had a propensity for not reporting incidents, we had accumulated as many of the incident reports that I had at my disposal. Even then I would have to admit that it was incomplete. At this point the panel called a recess and they said they would have to deliberate as to whether or not these would be admissible. Stan put forth that they should be as this showed how the exposures had affected me and that they were still continuing. Even still the panel recessed for almost 2.5 hours. When we were called back in the decision was that the panel would accept our evidence and that we would resume after lunch.
After the lunch break we resumed and we presented our case. We covered many of the more severe exposures. Although I had never taken time off, my health was showing a continuing deterioration. I had always chosen to suffer on my time and strove to be a conscientious and value-added employee. I was questioned about how my habits at home and during off hours had been affected. I talked to having purchased steam cleaners to be able to maintain my living space. How as many scented products had been replaced by more “environmentally” and personally friendly products and on and on went our testimony. I talked to how family and friends helped me to maintain my home and so on. Activities were changed to meet my changing health and even in my living environment I had to aware of what was happening.
As the day wore on, it became evident to the WSIAT panel that there was not going to be time to hear the Occupational Hygienist. Apologies were given and we were told that the panel would request another date and we would continue then.
On returning to work I was asked about the outcome. I told whoever asked that we were waiting for the panel to request a second day. There was surprise that ArcelorMittal Dofasco did not have any representation there. I don’t believe they thought I had any chance of winning, so I can imagine there was a sense of outrage that another day of hearings would take place. Stan assured me that they couldn’t decide to participate at the next date and that was a right they had given up by declining to participate.
Early in December 2009 we returned to the Sheraton for the next hearing date. I had been warned that it could take at least six months to get a second date. So it was a relief to get a date within the same year. The day started with a recap and then the Occupational Hygienist testified.
The Occupational Hygienist covered a few points in an earlier report in which he explained that the initial accident was similar to a chlorine gas exposure. He also talked to the fact that he had been in similar plants and was well aware of the piping systems and how much of a chemical would have been blown out into the air that evening. The Occupational Hygienist went on to explain a few of the doctor’s points about the number of eosinophils, an asthma indicator, in the respiratory tests that were conducted. He said that the symptoms I was experiencing were not an immune response, such as asthma, but something different and that was why there were no eosinophils in the test. He also explained how the damage in the lungs happened – the inhaled caustic burns the respiratory tract, from sinuses to lungs, as the damaged cells and nerves die and slough off, new cells and nerves take their places. However these new cells and nerves are not replaced on a one-to-one basis, there is an expediential increase in the number of cells and nerve endings and that it had happened with each exposure.
As the day drew to a close, the WSIAT Tribunal warned that the decision was not going to be an easy one and may take more time than normal but we would be informed of any delays in their coming decision.
So the waiting game began and it was going to be a long wait. During our period of waiting, I had another severe exposure and that is where the next blog will begin.
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