Amendments to the Yukon’s Workers’ Compensation Act would mean first responders will not have to prove their PTSD is work-related to qualify for coverage. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Yukon tables presumptive PTSD legislation

NDP hammers bill as insufficient

Yukon’s presumptive PTSD legislation covering the territory’s first responders was tabled for the first time this week.

If it’s passed, the amendments to the Yukon’s Workers’ Compensation Act would mean firefighters, police officers and paramedics — including community health nurses who attend ambulance calls and air ambulance medevacs — will not have to prove their post traumatic stress disorder is work-related in order to qualify for coverage by the compensation board.

Debate on the bill is expected later this month, but that hasn’t stopped the NDP from asking about it during question period.

The NDP has maintained since the last election that presumptive PTSD legislation should cover all workers, just the positions listed in the bill.

“No worker and no workplace is immune to post-traumatic stress injury. Nurses, youth workers supporting suicidal individuals, or a store attendant robbed at gunpoint are just a few examples. None of these workers benefit from the presumptive legislation tabled by this government,” Leader Liz Hanson said in the legislative assembly Oct. 5.

“Why did the government table a bill that will protect the paramedic who assists a victim in a traumatic situation but not the nurse who deals with similar trauma in the emergency room?”

Jeanie Dendys, the minister responsible for the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, said all employees can still apply to the board if they suffer from from a psychological injury, including PTSD, at work.

“We have many claims currently within workers’ compensation right now that we are covering,” she said.

But Hanson argued employees not covered by the legislation will still have to go through a complicated process to prove their injury was work-related.

“Every worker deserves this protection … yet this government decided to restrict this presumptive legislation to first responders. Nurses, social workers, corrections officers and many more will still face a time-consuming process.”

A related amendment that has received less attention is the one the government is proposing to make to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

It would allow government to eventually create regulations requiring businesses to implement preventative mental health programming to try and keep people from developing psychological injuries.

The laws already require that an employer consider employees’ mental health, said Andrew Robulack with the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

New regulations would give “employers a framework, a better sense of what the expectations are for them to institute (rules) in their workplace, instead of leaving it as a sort of more nebulous concept,” he said.

Robulack said he hasn’t been given any indication from the government when those regulations would be completed after the bill passes.

One provision that could show up is a regulation requiring some companies to have what’s called “critical incident stress management” process he said.

That means immediately after a traumatic event a company could be prepared to enlist people to help employees deal with the experience, he said.

The level of planning and programming a business would be required to have would likely be linked to the amount of risk employees face of psychological injury, he said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com