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.