Former Ladysmith drywaller questions WCB help

Jeremy Vegh was working at his job drywalling three years ago when he suffered a shoulder injury that impacted his ability to do his work.

Jeremy Vegh was industriously working at his job drywalling three years ago when he suffered a shoulder injury that impacted his ability to do his work.

Vegh said he turned to WorkSafeBC for assistance and that’s when the Ladysmith resident said his troubles began.

WorkSafeBC is dedicated to promoting workplace health and safety for workers and employers of the province.

They also rehabilitate those who are injured and provide a “timely return” to work, according to its website.

Vegh said, after a review of his medical and work histories, it was determined that it would be best if he looked for work in another field, and he agreed to WorkSafeBC’s proposal for him to take a heavy-operators course in Alberta.

But, after successfully completing the course, Vegh said he sent out hundreds of resumes to possible employers, but had no luck landing a job with his new training.

He said that a lot of the jobs related to his new training were in the oil fields in Alberta, but when that industry took a major hit after oil prices dropped, the jobs became scarce.

Vegh said he eventually ran out of his entitled benefits from WorkSafeBC after his failure to find work, and now he’s been forced to try and live off a $420 monthly pension payment from the agency.

He said after a number of unsuccessful appeals, he has found that the significant drop from the approximately $3,600 a month he was receiving while working full time as a drywaller has been devastating for him economically.

“I talked to the six other guys who were doing the heavy-operators course through WorkSafeBC while I was in Alberta and not one of them wanted to be there,” he said.

“I can imagine there are likely hundreds of others in the same position. I did my due diligence but I was forced to take this course and now I don’t even have enough money to fight this in court.”

Chris Hartmann, a director of vocational rehabilitation services for WorkSafeBC, worked on Vegh’s file.

He said WorkSafeBC’s primary goal in such cases is to help get the worker back to his previous job at the same salary.

But, Hartmann said, if that’s unlikely, the agency will work with the client and review their work and academic histories, as well as interests and aptitudes, to determine the best course of action to find appropriate employment.

“We first met with Jeremy Vegh in January, 2015, and explored options,” Hartmann said.

“As with all our clients, Mr. Vegh had the opportunity during these discussions to make suggestions on what he would like to do, but no other viable occupations came up.

“We decided in May, 2015, that, as he had worked construction and trades before, we thought it reasonable that he do the heavy operators course because we have had success with it before with previous clients.”

Hartmann said Vegh could have chosen not to take the course, which involves approximately 200 hours of training on heavy equipment plus classroom time, but he agreed to do it.

He said 70 of WorkSafeBC’s clients took the heavy operators course the previous year and have found good-paying work with their new training, and it’s expected that another 40 to 50 that are doing it this year will be successful as well.

Hartmann said there’s no doubt the market for heavy operators may be temporarily soft now, but in Vegh’s case, the agency is looking for work that will keep him employed with decent pay for the rest of his working life, which could be up to 35 years.

“But we can only do so much and we can’t provide guarantees of employment,” he said.

“It may be that there are not many opportunities for Mr. Vegh to find work in the area where he currently lives and he may have to consider moving. There are many infrastructure projects being constructed in the province, including B.C. Hydro’s Site C dam project (near Fort St. John) where his training may be helpful in finding a job.”