The province is providing $1.7 million to Workplace Safety North

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The Ontario government is providing $1.7 million to Workplace Safety North (WSN) to develop and provide mental health training and resources for mining and forestry workers in northern Ontario.

In a press release Monday, the province said the new funding follows nearly $8 million the province has allocated in support of WSN’s Ontario Mine Rescue program, which coordinated the successful rescue of all 39 miners killed in the stuck underground in Sudbury last September.

“Our miners and forest workers work in challenging environments every day to deliver materials that communities across Ontario rely on,” Monte McNaughton, Minister for Jobs, Training and Skills Development, said in the press release.

“While these jobs offer rewarding, meaningful careers, we must acknowledge the mental toll they can take. That’s why our government has invested in a comprehensive mental health program with a whole range of supports. Every worker, whatever their job, needs to know that help is always a phone call away.”

Research has shown that mining and forestry workers are at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety, stress and depression. To address this, WSN has developed a three-year program that provides in-person and online training for mining and forestry operations, improving mental health outcomes for workers in the industry.

As part of the project, workers and employers will receive 24/7 support, including an online portal with mental health tools and free resources and awareness sessions for small businesses.

“Based on the impact of the pandemic on mental health in the workplace and at home, workplace mental health must be at the forefront of occupational safety in Ontario,” said Paul Andre, WSN President and CEO, in the press release.

“That’s why WSN has a team of accredited psychological health and safety consultants who advise clients and help create psychologically safe and healthy workplaces. This funding will help us expand critical resources and support for workers who need it most.”

The services will help break down the stigma attached to mental health problems, allowing workers to ask for support when they need it. This is particularly important in the mining and forestry sectors where mental health and psychological concerns can go unaddressed.

“Our Government stands shoulder to shoulder with mining and forestry workers across the North,” said Greg Rickford, Minister for Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry in the press release.

“We know these critical workers face unique challenges, including long hours and irregular hours. This is precisely why it is so important for our government to make mental health support more accessible so these workers can get the 24/7 help they need.”

WSN is an independent, not-for-profit organization and one of four sector-based health and safety associations in Ontario. They provide specialized occupational health and safety services such as health and safety certification programs and on-site audits at mining and forestry workplaces in remote areas of the province.

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