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Hamilton Port Authority, Mission to Seafarers support marine industry workers.

HAMILTON PORT AUTHORITY, MISSION TO SEAFARERS SUPPORT MARINE INDUSTRY WORKERS.

The organizations have partnered on a campaign to help workers deal with trauma.

The Hamilton Port Authority and the Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario (MTSSO) have launched a campaign to help marine industry workers deal with trauma in its immediate aftermath with the hope of preventing post-traumatic stress disorder.

The pilot project puts in place a "crisis plan" in which an emergency phone number is provided to port tenants, shipping agents and seafarers that directly connects them to a Mission to Seafarers chaplain, said Vicki Gruber, Hamilton harbour master and manager of port security.

"From minutes to hours, they will dispatch someone to arrive on-site to deal with the incident and those involved," she said.

Workers in the marine industry could be exposed to an accident or death, extreme weather or a shipboard event — all of which could result in critical incident stress.

The intention is to provide an immediate response while people seek additional support followed by a debriefing a week and a month later to make sure they are receiving the help they need, Gruber added.

"The biggest thing is we want people to be aware that it is OK to ask for help in times of critical incident stress," Gruber said. "What they are feeling is a common reaction."

Work on the project has been underway for about a year-and-a-half after an incident in Hamilton in which a 26,000-pound slab of steel flattened a longshoreman's foot, said Rev. Judith Alltree, executive director of the MTSSO.

Two seafarers witnessed it and were "very, very distressed," she said.

Alltree said she phoned Gruber and the two of them sat in her office with the seafarers, talking and mostly listening to them. The incident brought up other issues in their lives, she said.

"It's about dealing with trauma, and the faster you can deal with trauma, the better it is for the person who's dealing with it to get help and move away from it and not have it affect the rest of your life," she said. 

The Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario cares for seafarers arriving in the ports of Hamilton, Toronto and Oshawa.

This project is launching in Hamilton first because that port is the largest, has the greatest need and has offered the most support for the pilot, but the goal is to roll it out in Toronto and Oshawa by spring, Alltree said.

"Ports are very vulnerable places to work — no matter what job you're doing," she said. "We want people to feel that no matter what, we are there to serve them and to help them and take care of them in the event of an accident."

by Natalie Paddon The Hamilton Spectator

npaddon@thespec.com

905-526-2420 | @NatatTheSpec