A new research project recently announced at the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health in Sudbury will study the mental health of workers in the mining industry.
Fully funded by mining company Vale Ltd., the $400,000 project will take place over three years. It is a joint effort involving Vale, United Steelworkers (USW) union and the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH).
The goal of the study, called Mining Mental Health
, is to collect information to develop strategies to promote strong mental health among workers at Vale’s Ontario operations.
Researchers will survey a sample of workers from all occupational groups across Vale’s Ontario operations. The project will be overseen by a multi-disciplinary research team from CROSH, led by Dr. Michel Larivière, a clinical psychologist and associate director at CROSH. Researchers will work closely with Vale’s occupational health committee through all phases of the study.
Larivière says, the study is significant for two reasons: there isn’t any research of its kind in the academic literature internationally; and, there’s a high level of collaborative support from various stakeholders, including government, industry, labour and academia.
Jody Kuzenko, director of Vale’s Ontario Production Service and a board member of CROSH, says one in four of the company’s disability claims are attributable to mental health. Of the disability claims related to mental health from across the province, 78 per cent are short-term, while 67 per cent are long-term.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association the following should be considered:
One in five adult Canadians will suffer from mental health illness in their lives.
In any given week, at least 500,000 Canadians will miss work because of mental health problems.
The economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year. This includes health care costs, lost productivity, and reductions in health-related quality of life.
A growing body of international evidence demonstrates that promotion, prevention, and early intervention initiatives show positive returns on investment.
When the announcement of the new study was made recently in Sudbury, Leo Gerard, international president of the USW and chair of the CROSH advisory board, compared workplace mental trauma in miners to that of emergency services personnel, police officers and military personnel. “The difference,” says Gerard, “is that miners don’t get a reprieve from the site of the incident. When it happens in an industrial workplace, the survivors have to go back the next day, or a couple of days later, and we never consider the shock to their system.”
The Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health was established by Laurentian University to provide a formalized structure for industry, safe workplace associations, labour groups, government organizations and researchers to share workplace injury and disease problems and solutions. CROSH brings together researchers with expertise in ergonomics, human factors, occupational health nursing, epidemiology, mental health, computer science, risk, fatigue, clinical physiology, labour studies and occupational disease.
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WHSC offers a wide range of training programs
to help workplace parties in mining and other industries understand their legal duties and responsibilities related to workplace hazards which affect mental health
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