Ribbon cut for new Office of Disability Management at CFB Halifax
By Ryan Melanson,
The opening of a new Office of Disability Management (ODM) at CFB Halifax is being celebrated as a major step towards the development of a new Total Health and Wellness Strategy for civilian members of the defence team.
The Halifax ODM is now the third office of its kind in the country, and though it began operating in the summer, staff and stakeholders gathered at the Piers Military Community Centre on October 22 to officially cut the ribbon with a grand opening celebration.
The ODM provides one-on-one case management services for injured, ill or impaired employees, offering personalized support to help navigate through the process, which can be confusing and stressful. According to management of the new office, the ODM’s role is to be an impartial, collaborative and inclusive entity that facilitates a supportive, safe and healthy work environment, enabling ill, impaired and injured employees to stay at work or return to the workplace as early as medically feasible. ODM staff are aiming to help both employees and employer navigate through things like proper accommodation for employees, facilitating leave and return to the workplace, and working through medical retirements when required. This applies in cases of injuries that occur at the job as well as non-occupational cases.
While dealing with a workplace injury, or an illness that takes an employee away from their job, is never easy, the four disability management advisors at the new office will bring positive change to the process, said Kin Choi, Assistant Deputy Minister (HR-Civ). He was at the grand opening along with ODM National Manager Chantal Lussier, local ODM staff, MARLANT Chief of Staff Capt(N) Guillaume Lafrance, and many others.
“Don’t let the word ‘disability’ turn this into a negative. This office is here to help people get back to work, help them be productive and improve their overall wellbeing,” Choi said.
Government data shows that DND has a high injury frequency compared to other departments, as well as longer than average delays in reporting incidents. In cases when employees require leave from work, statistics show those out for as long as six months have only a 50% likelihood of returning to their job, and after two years away from work, that statistic drops to just 10%. While the introduction of a centralized service to support employees and managers through this process is intended to reduce claim costs, there is also a focus on the people, and the extra support is meant to benefit workers.
Jerry Ryan, president of the Federal Dockyard Trades and Labour Council East, said ODM has been developed collaboratively and with union support, and will help make the process less stressful for DND employees.
“These programs are about putting people first. We all want to do the right thing by our people, but often times we don’t have the tools, the equipment, or resources that we need to do it. This is a great step toward improving that.”
Ryan added he’s seen too many workers deal with stress, mental health issues and financial hardship after needing to take time away from work for reasons beyond their control, and many never return. Getting people the support needed to overcome these difficult situations is seen as a win for all involved.
Note: A previous version of this story identified Mr. Kin Choi as Associate Deputy Minister. His job title is in fact Assistant Deputy Minister. We regret the error.