The Province of Ontario announced $1.7 million funding for the development and delivery of Workplace Safety North mental health training and resources for mining and forestry workers in northern Ontario. Both mining and forestry were deemed essential services, and have been operating throughout the pandemic. Many worksite locations are remote work camps or in northern Ontario region, where access to medical care is more difficult than in southern Ontario.

“Based on the effects of the pandemic on mental health in the workplace and at home, workplace mental health has moved to the forefront of Ontario workplace safety,” says Paul Andre, President and CEO of Workplace Safety North (WSN). “People are dealing with prolonged anxiety, depression, isolation, and need information and reinforcement on healthy ways to cope.

“In response to growing demand, WSN has assembled a team of four Psychological Health and Safety Advisors, accredited with the Canadian Mental Health Association, who are available to consult with clients and help create psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.

“Last year, workplace mental health resources were in the top ten health and safety resources accessed on workplacesafetynorth.ca, including a link to free workplace mental health videos viewed more than 500 times by Ontario employers and workers,” notes Andre.

Funding for Workplace Safety North’s three-year project is being used to develop and deliver in-person and online training programs for mining and forestry operations, including an online portal where workers and employers can access mental health tools and resources 24-7, as well as free resources and awareness sessions for small businesses.

These services help reduce the stigma associated with mental health challenges so that workers can ask for the help and support they need. This is especially important in the mining and forestry sectors, where mental health and psychological concerns are starting to be addressed.

The program includes a research partnership with the Centre for Research for Occupational Safety and Health based out of Laurentian University in Sudbury, which will be tracking statistical data to determine the effectiveness of the training and resources. To date, from October to December 2021, WSN delivered six training sessions to total of 928 participants. Survey results indicate 95.7 per cent of training participants said their knowledge and awareness increased, and 96.7 per cent said they changed their practice or behaviour as a result of receiving services.

The program builds on the government’s work to protect workers from workplace injuries and illness through the five-year Prevention Works strategy. The strategy aims to help workplaces comply with and exceed workplace health and safety laws and standards to keep workers safe, focusing on occupational illnesses, employee mental health, workplace violence, and harassment.

Featured image: (Workplace Safety North)

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