Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine
First responders in Alberta maybe one step closer to getting coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with the Progressive Conservatives’ (PC) victory in the provincial election on April 24, 2012.
The PCs in Alberta had announced on April 13, 2012, that they would, if re-elected, amend the Worker’s Compensation Act to include PTSD in the list of injuries and illnesses covered by the board, possibly in the next legislative session, says Jessica Chawrun, Communications manager at PC Alberta.
Presumptive legislation – which assumes an occupational disease or injury is work-related if it meets certain criteria, such as length of service – already exist for provincial firefighters, who are covered for 14 cancers.
“Like physical ailments and injuries experience in the workplace, PTSD causes real hardship to those suffering and their families,” Premier Allison Redford says in a statement. “The reality of PTSD has emerged over the last decade, and I believe the legislation must reflect that changed to support those who face traumatic experiences.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association defines PTSD as an anxiety disorder triggered by a psychologically traumatic event involving actual or threatened death, or serious injury to oneself or others. Such triggering events could include violent personal assaults; car or plane accident; seeing another person harmed or killed; military combat; industrial accidents; and natural disasters.
Although details of the legislation have not been ironed out, it appears there would be no requirement on length of service, unlike the presumptive cancer legislation. Currently, firefighters are covered after “a minimum period of regular exposure to the hazards of a fire scene,” notes information from the provincial compensation board.
“A trauma can happen on the first day, or 25th year,” Chawrun says of the PTSD legislation.
Greg Holubowich, president of the Edmonton Firefighters Union, agrees that “the science and the medical community is further advanced today than it ever has been in recognizing post-traumatic stress disorder in a lot of first responders and military personnel around the world.”
I was not surprised to see that a health and safety issue was on the platform during the advent of an election. Why was it not in place long before that? This sounds very much like the little boy that will take his ball and go home because he wants to dictate the terms. What do you think?
The province of Alberta has a long way to go when dealing with health and safety issues. I believe the enforcement department needs to be overhauled and fresh troops brought in. As I have said many times, it is not the lack of legislation that is the problem but in the enforcement of that legislation.
I wrote a blog post on the Alberta Auditor General report stating almost exactly the same thing. The oil industry was so powerful that many issues were not dealt with at all or with kid gloves. The formula for fines is appalling as well. There have been ties where a fine of $100,000 was broken down to $10,000 actual fine and $90,000 donation to a school program. How quaint! Where is the incentive there?
Now that we have a new government in Alberta I suggest they contact the Alberta Federation of Labour and have them sit at the table when how to proceed with change. They have been a valued resource and can lead the new NDP government to a culture change making workplace safety the highest priority.
Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”
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‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.