PTSD progress

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - EDITORIAL -

If your job breaks you phys­i­cally or men­tally, if it crushes your spine or poi­sons your lungs or other­wise leaves you un­able to work any longer, your op­tions are lim­ited. You can’t sue your em­ployer for what has hap­pened on the job — what you can do is go through the pro­vin­cial worker’s com­pen­sa­tion process.

The Work­place Health, Safety and Com­pen­sa­tion Act spells that out clearly: “The right to com­pen­sa­tion pro­vided by this Act is in­stead of rights and rights of ac­tion, statu­tory or other­wise, to which a worker or his or her de­pen­dents are en­ti­tled against an em­ployer…”

But all in­juries are dif­fer­ent. Some are ob­vi­ous, oth­ers are more dis­crete. Some are easy to talk about; if a pal­let crushes your foot, peo­ple will sign your cast. Oth­ers are far less eas­ily dis­cussed. Leave the of­fice with a di­ag­no­sis of clin­i­cal de­pres­sion and you might hear noth­ing from your work­mates. On top of all of that, some con­di­tions are dif­fi­cult to talk about with strangers, even when those strangers are physi­cians. For oth­ers, it’s dif­fi­cult to prove they were caused di­rectly by your work.

Take post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD). For first re­spon­ders and many other work­ers, PTSD is clearly a work haz­ard — but the symp­toms of the dis­or­der are not only de­bil­i­tat­ing, they can be deeply per­sonal and em­bar­rass­ing.

You may not want to talk about your sleep­less­ness and un­con­trol­lable anger. You may be un­able to jump through bureau­cratic hoops and ex­plain about de­bil­i­tat­ing night­mares or fugues, or you might be un­will­ing to throw your life into a sys­tem that could lit­er­ally dis­count ev­ery­thing as be­ing “all in your head.” It’s hard enough some­times to ad­mit you can’t cope; hav­ing to re­state that, to prove it, to strangers who might sim­ply deny a claim for work­place com­pen­sa­tion adds the risk of fi­nan­cial in­sult to on the job in­jury.

And that’s why it’s sig­nif­i­cant that the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has agreed to bring in leg­is­la­tion that will make PTSD a pre­sump­tive in­jury, as far as this prov­ince’s worker’s com­pen­sa­tion sys­tem is con­cerned.

That means, if an in­di­vid­ual suf­fers a trau­matic in­ci­dent at work and sub­se­quently de­vel­ops PTSD, it will be ac­cepted that the in­jury was caused by their work. A PTSD suf­ferer will not have to prove that con­nec­tion.

It’s a crit­i­cal step for­ward: it means em­ploy­ees will be able to get help more quickly, and will not face, as a first step, hav­ing to prove their ill­ness came from their job.

The de­ci­sion has been widely lauded, ex­cept by em­ploy­ers’ groups, who fear their pre­mi­ums might end up pay­ing claims to peo­ple whose PTSD was not caused by work is­sues.

To that, we’d say, you can ad­mire their cost con­scious­ness. Not their hu­man­ity.

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