Alberta Government Looks to Amend Workers Comp Act for First Responders
Police, firefighters, and paramedics scarred by post-traumatic stress disorder will soon no longer have to fight to prove they are ill, the Alberta government announced recently according to The Canadian Press.
”PTSD’s devastating effectson individuals and their families are well understood, and it’s time legislation reflected that fact,” commented Lt.-Gov. Don Ethell in a speech from the throne that began an abbreviated session of the legislature. ”First responders rush to our aid in times of trouble, and this government will be the first in Canada to do the same for them.” [WCx]
Bill 1, the signature and only piece of legislation for the weeklong session, amends the Workers Compensation Act. It will reportedly not pass in this session but will come back for further debate in the fall.
Sgt. Tony Simioni, spokesperson for rank-and file officers with the Edmonton police force, commented that they have been pushing for the change for a long time.
”You (as a first responder) go to (car) accidents, you see child deaths, shootings, and violent scenes on a regular basis,” said Simioni. He said emergency personnel who have PTSD deal with many challenges, the first of which is to overcome the stigma of mental illness by admitting they have it. But once they do, he remarked, the battle is just starting to get benefits from the Workers Compensation Board.
Not only do claimants have to prove they have PTSD, they have to prove it happened while working, and then they have to prove it is so extreme they cannot do their jobs, according to Simioni. He said ”very few” claims are accepted, adding that his police association has been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring lawyers to fight the cases on appeal to the Workers Compensation Board.
He said diagnosing PTSD can be tricky, but that does not make it any less real. ”In my 33-year careerI can talk about hundreds of incidents that could have triggered symptoms of PTSD,” he said. ”Our younger members in two or three years can accumulate more than the average adult sees in two or three lifetimes.’’ [WCx]
Opposition NDP Leader Brian Mason commented that while he applauds the bill, it should have been available to others who deal with trauma on the front lines, such as nurses and social workers. ”They (the governing Progressive Conservatives)are picking and choosing,” remarked Mason. ”It seems to methey have a real fondness for enhancing the rights of people who wear uniforms, but not necessarily for people who are working in the care area,” he added.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: email@example.com.
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