Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
The extension of the mental-disorder presumption to emergency dispatchers, nurses and healthcare assistants in British Columbia took effect on April 16, 2019.
An amendment to the Worker’s Compensation act last spring added mental-health disorders to the list of illnesses that are recognized as being associated with certain professions, specifically police, firefighters, paramedics, sheriff’s and correctional officers. This recognition fast-tracks the claims process to access supports and compensation for those illnesses once a formal diagnosis has been made.
“These changes to the mental disorder presumption regulation are about fairness and support for workers who experience higher-than-average mental harm due to the jobs they do,” says Minister of Labour Harry Bains.
Bains has acknowledged the need to look at other sectors for these presumptions has certain professions are more likely to experience trauma on the job that can lead to mental illness. Factors considered for each occupation include the nature of the work, potential for exposure to traumatic events, rates of workers compensation claims for mental illness in each type of job and the financial impact of extending the presumption to the occupation.
“This is good news for B.C’s emergency call-takers and dispatchers,” says Oliver Gruter-Andrew, chief executive officer of E-Comm in Vancouver.
Christine Sorensen, president of the British Columbia Nurses’ Union in Burnaby, welcomed the provincial government’s recognition of nurses mental-health needs. “Nurses are often exposed to workplace trauma, and we are hopeful this announcement will provide both resources and support for all nurses,” Sorensen says.
Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees Union in Burnaby, says care aides often experience violence, witness and respond to suicides and face threats and intimidation. “Today’s announcement acknowledges their valuable contributions to care, and especially of the toll that trauma experienced on-the-job can have on them,” Whiteside says.
The front-line personal dealing with the dark side of everyday life, (suicides, murders, injuries from fires, palliative care, violence in the home as well as the workplace, prison actions such as riots and abuse, and being sent in to provide care in less than ideal or dangerous conditions, etc.) need to be reassured that their mental health is a working priority in many facets of the public sector.
I was elated to see a province, as proactive as British Columbia, realizing its role in protecting the workplace, admitting that mental disorders are a very real concern especially for our frontline workers.
Many provinces are still way behind this updated legislation and they should use B.C. as a role model and improve their standards as well.
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VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.