Court orders tri­bunal to re­open truck driver’s case

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Mark NIELSEN Cit­i­zen staff mnielsen@pgc­i­t­i­

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.

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