Paramedics and the chance of a better outcome: Psychological health and safety and employer liability
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Canadian paramedics experience high rates of work-related PTSD and suicide. Relevant scholarship has claimed that paramedics often experience more stress from a lack of support within the workplace than from the traumatic nature of their work. The purpose of this study was to determine what underlying legislation might support the implementation of comprehensive support programs for Canadian paramedics. In-depth interviews were conducted with paramedics and key actors from paramedic services in Saskatoon, Canada and Queensland, Australia; a workplace with an emerging response to paramedic mental health and one with an established, multi-modal, comprehensive health promotion program, respectively. The Saskatoon sample provided narratives demonstrating a lack of support in the workplace as the primary cause of stress while the Brisbane sample presented as satisfied with their support services and unconcerned with PTSD and suicide. The major difference between the two cases was the employers’ level of assertiveness in promoting social support within the workplace, owing to underlying occupational health and safety law. Australia’s primary duty of care model supports a culture where the employer is primarily responsible for the prevention of work-related injuries. In Canada, occupational health and safety law does not hold any actor primarily responsible for injury prevention, yet psychological health and safety in the workplace is an emerging liability issue for employers. This thesis explains Canada’s first responders’ mental health crisis as a sociopolitical problem rather than a collection of individual tragedies. Much can be learned from Queensland case study where the employer was mandated to actively promote psychological health and safety within the workplace rather than ad hoc PTSD and suicide intervention programs. Finally, the struggle to respond to high call volumes was among the top psychological health concerns for all participants, demonstrating that resourcing levels need to be addressed in order to fully promote better health outcomes.
DegreeMaster of Public Policy (M.P.P.)
DepartmentJohnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
CommitteeCarleton, Erica; Fairbairn, Brett; Woods, Phillip; Walker, Keith
Copyright DateAugust 2020
Paramedics Psychological Health and Safety Employer Liability Mental Health Psychological Injury EAP Occupational Health and Safety Duty of Care Peer Support