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 by 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 said. “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 will be introduced in the house today. 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 having to be proven to be job related.
“We are so grateful for the heroic work that first responders do in our communities every day,” said 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.
Additionally, the amendments will extend the existing cancer presumptions for municipal firefighters to include federal firefighters on military bases. It recognizes that firefighters from military bases may be exposed to dangerous substances, and frequently assist municipalities at off-base incidents.
The legislative changes are a first step toward providing more support to workers who are first on the scene at challenging, and sometimes dangerous and traumatic, situations. Government will consider over time expanding presumptions to other types of workers who experience traumatic events at work, as well as continuing to focus on overall workplace safety.
A backgrounder follows.