Court orders tribunal to reopen truck driver’s case
A B.C. Supreme Court Justice has ordered the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal to take another look at a Mackenzie man’s claim for compensation for the serious injuries he suffered when he fainted after a day behind the wheel of a truck.
Raymond Chmielewski, 53, fractured parts of his face and jaw in August 2014 when he fell face first. He was transported to Vancouver General Hospital where two plates were put around each eye and four around his jaw.
Chmielewski had been hired to drive a multi-axel dump truck hauling shale to various road construction projects in the B.C. Peace and was stationed at a work camp in Pink Mountain near Fort St. John.
On the day in question, Chmielewski had worked a 10 1/2-hour day starting at 5 a.m. He had been drinking water throughout the day and once back at camp, he gargled half a beer to clear up his mouth and throat.
He drank the remainder of that beer and one more, napped for about 4 1/2 hours, then walked across the road to have dinner at a restaurant. Upon finishing his meal, he stood up, felt dizzy, and sat down again. He then got up once more, paid for his meal, walked outside and fainted.
In reaching its decision, the tribunal found Chmielewski’s injuries had nothing more than a trivial connection to his employment and attributed them to sleep difficulties he had been enduring since 2012.
But in Justice Michael Brundrett’s opinion, that decision was baseless. While Chmielewski had a history of fainting, doctors provided no consensus on the cause and made no link to trouble sleeping, Brundrett noted in a decision issued this week.
Brundrett also noted that at least three of the four episodes occurred after Chmielewski performed hard work. On that point, the tribunal drew a distinction between physical work and driving-related work, which Brundrett found unjustified.
He said Chmielewski drove a heavy, multi-axle truck all day, “a task which no doubt required considerable attention.”
Moreover, Brundett noted, Chmielewski was working in hot, dusty conditions.
“Driving heavy machinery in those circumstances was physically demanding too, even if the petitioner regularly worked long hours,” Brundett said in a decision.