Document name
Heart Attack
Document number
POL 05/2013

Effective date: December 1, 2013

Application: All heart attack claims on or after the effective date.

Policy subject: Decision making - Injuries


To establish adjudication guidelines for heart attack claims.


Policy section content
Section detail

Unusual physical exertion or strain means the exertion or strain is unusual when compared to:

  1. An individual’s normal work duties, and
  2. Their active lifestyle outside of work.

Acute means a specific, dramatic and sudden incident.

Emergency response means those circumstances where firefighters attend a crisis situation as part of their duties. Examples include a fire or car crash.

Pre-existing condition means a non-work-related medical condition that existed prior to the work-related injury.


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Under Section 20 of The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013 (the “Act”), the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) will determine:

    1. Whether a condition or death was a result of an injury, and
    2. Whether an injury has arisen out of or in the course of employment.


Policy section content
Section detail
  1. Heart attack claims are work injuries when one of the following has occurred:
    1. The worker performed unusual physical exertions or strains within a few hours of the onset of heart attack symptoms. For example, an office worker who spends most of their time at a desk is required to move heavy office furniture.
    2. The worker experienced an acute emotional shock within a few hours of the onset of heart attack symptoms (POL 02/2017, Injuries – Psychological).
    3. The worker received an injury as a result of occupational hazards that placed unusual stress on the heart. For example:
      1. An electric shock.
      2. Chest injury, or
      3. The inhalation of harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide or methane.
    4. The worker had heart problems during medical treatment for a work injury. For example, reaction to anesthetic.
  2. Heart attack claims will typically require detailed file development. This will involve obtaining:
    1. All relevant medical information. This includes records of prior heart problems, and
    2. Details of the circumstances leading up to the initial onset of symptoms and the diagnosis of a heart attack.
  3. In certain instances a worker may not recognize the initial symptoms as an indicator of heart problems. This can cause a delay in the diagnosis. Coverage may be provided if:
    1. The diagnosis occurred within 24 hours of an unusual physical exertion or acute emotional shock, and
    2. The worker experienced symptoms within a few hours of the work event.


  1. When a firefighter has a heart attack within 24 hours of attending an emergency response, the WCB will determine the claim under POL 03/2020, Injuries – Firefighters.

Pre-Existing Conditions

  1. Factors such as pre-existing conditions and lifestyle may contribute to heart disease. As a result, each heart attack claim will be considered on its own merits. Review by a WCB Medical Consultant may be required (POL 12/2017, Pre-Existing Conditions – Aggravation or Acceleration).


  1. When a worker is found dead at a worksite, the WCB will determine the claim under POL 04/2014, Fatalities, Presumption.

Policy references

Policy reference content

Section heading

Legislative Authority

Section detail

The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013
Sections 20, 23, 28, 29
The Workers’ Compensation General Regulations, 1985
Sections 22.3

Section heading

Document History

Section detail

(1)    January 1, 2014. References updated in accordance with The Workers’ Compensation Act, 2013.
(2)    POL and PRO 12/2007, Injuries – Cardiac (effective March 1, 2006 to November 30, 2013)
(3)    POL and PRO 04/2004, Injuries – Cardiac (effective August 1, 2004 to February 28, 2006).
(4)    POL 31/72, Injuries – Cardiac (effective April 19, 1972 to July 31, 2004).

Section heading


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