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B.C. government urged to fast track PTSD claims for first responders

Though workplace accidents can be avoided by taking proactive steps to meet safety requirements, some types of employment are inherently more hazardous than others. First responders, for example, enter dangerous work environments on a daily basis, confronting a high risk of physical and mental injury.

A grassroots group of first responders in B.C. has started a campaign to urge the provincial government to do more to help firefighters, police officers, paramedics and others who are dealing with mental health issues resulting from their jobs. Specifically, the purpose of the campaign, called "You Are Not Alone," is to have the government write into law a presumptive disability clause recognizing that post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a workplace hazard for first responders.

Commenting on the issue, Jobs Minister Shirley Bond pointed out that legislation passed in May 2012 already recognizes that work-related hazards can have an impact on workers' mental health. If a person has been diagnosed with work-related PTSD, then the worker can file a claim through WorkSafeBC.

Still, those who support changing the law say that the WorkSafeBC claims process is too slow in providing the support, benefits and treatment that first responders need.

Lisa Jennings, a paramedic who started the "You Are Not Alone" campaign, acknowledged that the implementation of a presumptive disability clause is not likely to affect first responders who currently have WorkSafeBC claims. The goal, rather, is to implement legislation that offers protections to future first responders.

If you have questions about current workers' compensation law, then don't hesitate to speak with a labour and employment lawyer. Many work-related injuries and disputes can be avoided with the proper legal planning, and when the need for an investigation does arise, it is important to have a legal advocate with the knowledge and skills to assist.

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