The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division (WHSCRD) is an independent, quasi-judicial body that considers appeals arising from decisions of WorkplaceNL. The appeals process for clients of WorkplaceNL is vital to the overall service provided to employers and to workers who sustain workplace injuries in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the final level of appeal within the workers’ compensation system.
The WHSCRD occupies an important jurisprudential role and performs a significant diversionary function in determining matters which would otherwise be heard by the Courts, placing an expectation on the review commissioner to produce written decisions that are comprehensive, unbiased, well-reasoned and complete and meet a quasi-judicial standard. Appointees to the review commissioner panel must be unbiased and must be perceived as unbiased.
Section 22 of the Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Act (Act) provides that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister, appoint to the review division a panel of persons to act as review commissioners.
The panel of review commissioners cannot exceed seven members, one of which is appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council as the Chief Review Commissioner. Presently, the Chief Review Commissioner is a full-time salaried position on the executive pay scale and also serves as the organization’s CEO with related administrative responsibilities. Another full-time review commissioner has been approved on an annual contract and the remaining five positions are part-time review commissioners.
All review commissioners report to the Chief Review Commissioner who reports directly to the Minister responsible for WorkplaceNL.
Though not required, ideally, the panel of review commissioners should reflect the gender and regional representation of the Province’s population.
Each review commissioner acts independently. Therefore, each review commissioner must possess the same minimum competencies as identified below:
Candidates for review commissioner appointments should demonstrate the competencies identified above as well as the following qualifications:
Part-time review commissioners should be available to attend an eight day training program immediately following the appointment. Pending training completion, each review commissioner should also be available to hear three to five cases per month. Each oral hearing requires approximately two hours. In preparation for each hearing, a review commissioner can expect to spend two or three hours to review each claim file which contains an average of 500 pages but may contain over 2,000 pages. Following a hearing, a review commissioner can expect to spend eight to ten hours to draft, edit and finalize a decision. Some travel may also be required.
According to the Act, a review commissioner shall hold office during good behaviour for a term that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may establish. Currently, the terms of appointments are as follows:
The Panel of Review Commissioners is seeking to fill one vacancy for a part-time Review Commissioner for the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Review Division. Expressions of interest are being sought from individuals who possess the background, experience and skill-set identified in the board profile above and who can bring unique perspectives to the table. Consideration will also be given to a variety of demographic factors to ensure the board is representative of the population they serve.
The role of a Review Commissioner is both unique and challenging as it must balance the interests of the appellant parties against the requirements of the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act, (Act) while reviewing decisions of WorkplaceNL. Reporting to the Chief Review Commissioner, a Review Commissioner acts as an independent, appellate-level adjudicator and works within a demanding quasi-judicial environment.
S/he is responsible for conducting hearings to review Request for Review applications, claim files and decisions of the WorkplaceNL to ensure the decisions are compliant with the Act and policies of WorkplaceNL. Appeals often involve novel, complex and contentious issues (e.g. occupational disease, medical claims, return to work disputes, employer objections, etc.) S/he will preside over and control the forum for appeal hearings, ensuring a fair process for all hearing participants while maintaining integrity in the appeal process.
The role of Review Commissioner requires detailed analysis of comprehensive and voluminous claim documentation, the competing views presented by the parties in the adjudication of compensation issues and the preparation of written, well-reasoned decisions presented in a judicial format. This also requires the identification and application of the relevant law and policies to the issues in the appeal. A Review Commissioner is required to act impartially and render decisions based on individual merits of the case(s), within the framework of the Act. Review Commissioners are supported by the staff of the Review Division which consists of Legal Counsel, Manager of Operations, Appeals Officer and administrative support.