First responders, sheriffs, and correctional officers will have greater access to services and compensation for mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that can arise from traumatic workplace incidents, as a result of legislative amendments announced recently by provincial Labour Minister Harry Bains.
“These changes are about fairness and support for workers who put their lives on the line to protect British Columbians as part of their jobs,” Bains says.
“First responders, sheriffs, and both provincial and federal correctional officers who experience trauma on the job and are diagnosed with a mental disorder should not have the added stress of having to prove that their disorder is work related in order to receive support and compensation.”
The proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Act have been introduced in the house. If approved by the legislature, these amendments will add PTSD and other mental disorders to the list of conditions that are recognized as being presumptive conditions associated with specific types of jobs. The list includes conditions that are presumed to have been caused by the nature of the work, rather than conditions that have to be proven to be job-related.
“We are so grateful for the heroic work that first responders do in our communities every day,” says Bains.
“This proposed change ensures that when the people who protect us need support, B.C.’s workers’ compensation system supports them to ensure a full recovery.”
The new mental-disorder presumption will apply to firefighters, police officers, paramedics, sheriffs, and correctional officers.
The BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) is applauding the new legislation.
“First responders work in incredibly traumatic and stressful conditions,” says BCFED president Irene Lanzinger, “and their efforts are crucial to the well-being of our society.
“This new legislation is a compassionate response by government to the frequently gut-wrenching circumstances in which they work and the effect it has on their physical and mental well-being.”
Lanzinger is pleased that the legislation also creates a process for other high-risk occupations—such as nurses and health care professionals, for whom trauma and stress is also part of day-to-day work reality—to be covered by similar standards.
Currently, seven other Canadian jurisdictions—Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Yukon—have legislation around PTSD/mental disorder presumptions for workers’ compensation.
The legislative changes are a first step toward providing more support to workers who are first on the scene at a wide varety of challenging, and sometimes dangerous and traumatic, situations in the course of their occupation.
Government will consider over time expanding similar presumptions to other types of workers who experience traumatic events at work, as well as continuing to focus on overall workplace safety.