The Manitoba government has announced new legislation to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder as a work-related illness, which will extend coverage to all employees who are eligible under the Workers Compensation Board.

Under the new legislation, which comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, anyone who faces traumatic experiences in the workplace will be eligible for worker’s compensation, if they’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. The Workers Compensation Board will presume the PTSD was caused by a workplace event, unless proven otherwise.

“This is compassionate, humane, but smart legislation,” Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said during an announcement on Tuesday. “It helps people suffering from PTSD, no matter what area of work they are in, to get timely help.”

The change is designed to grant traumatized workers in any workplace access to the mental health services they need, in a timely manner. It applies to everyone from firefighters and first responders to nurses and retail workers.

Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, thanked the Manitoba government for the new legislation. “It allows a safe place for firefighters and paramedics to come to,” Forrest said. “They know now that they will get the support and treatment they need.”

Forrest added that he’s seen colleagues die by suicide over the years, because they were unable to access timely treatment for PTSD they developed on the job.

“Let’s hope that will never happen again,” he said.

Selinger pointed out that PTSD can be triggered by a single, traumatic incident, or by a build-up of other incidents over time. “It may be a series of things that happen to them over the course of their working experience, and at a certain point it becomes overwhelming, and that’s when we need timely support.”

Selinger hailed the changes as a first in Canada, adding that he hopes other provinces will follow Manitoba’s lead.