BCGEU supports BC NDP private member bill that would recognize PTSD as a presumed first responder workplace injury

On February 23, BC NDP MLA Shane Simpson, Official Opposition critic for WorkSafe BC, tabled a private member’s bill in the BC Legislature, which proposes to insert a clause into the Workers Compensation Act recognizing Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) as a presumed workplace injury.

Bill M203 states in part:

“If a worker who is or has been a first responder is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by a physician or psychologist, the post-traumatic stress disorder shall be presumed, unless contrary is proven, to be an injury that arose out of and occurred during the course of the worker’s employment.”

In speaking in support of his bill in the BC Legislature, MLA Simpson said, “in the past, this Legislature moved unanimously to adopt legislation that put in place a presumptive clause for certain cancers that have been proven an occupational hazard for firefighters. That was the right thing to do. Today, we have the opportunity to do the right thing again and adopt a presumptive clause for British Columbia’s first responders. Let us take action to support those who save the lives of fellow British Columbians every day.”

 In Question Period, MLA Simpson asked the minister responsible for WorkSafe BC, Shirley Bond, if she would support a presumptive clause for first responders who suffer from PTSD. Simpson noted that the committee struck by the ministry to look at the issue has been directed that legislation is not to be part of its mandate.

Minister Bond was non-committal in her response, saying that, “It is about more than money. It’s about making sure we have an appropriate way, the right supports in place. And that work continues to be done.”

BCGEU president Stephanie Smith urged the minister to support Bill M203.

“First responders continue to encounter roadblocks when making WorkSafe BC claims that involve PTSD,” says Smith. “The status quo is simply not working properly for our members, and I urge the minister to support Bill M203. Recognizing PTSD as a presumed workplace injury will ensure that our public service workers who do dangerous and stressful work are properly supported by our government.”

“Corrections officers and sheriffs face violence, stress and threats to their personal safety on a daily basis,” says Corrections and Sheriff Services component vice president Dean Purdy. “Our members put their lives on the line to protect British Columbians and this bill would go a long way to recognizing the hazardous nature of their work.”