Just doing it
“I am here to help in any way I can,”
says Betty Alton.
Alton, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Local 1000A, works at the Loblaws Market store in Oshawa. She has been co-chair of the eight-member joint health and safety committee for almost 10 years. She is also the worker certified health and safety representative and shop steward for her workplace of 400.
Over the years she has addressed a variety of health and safety concerns. For example, Alton remembers the old floor in the produce cooler used to be like an ice rink when it got wet. “It took three years to resolve,” she says, “but now there is a new covering on the floor that doesn’t ice-over.” Then there was the issue of knives. “Previously knives were just placed loosely into drawers. I felt this was a danger to anyone who happens to put their hand in the drawer. I suggested knife holders. It wasn’t a big deal, but I would much rather prevent an incident than deal with an injury. I see things like broken stepladders or a young worker trying to operate an electrical gig without having been trained in their proper operation and I see the potential for life altering incidents. So I simply do something about it.”
Alton says many of these concerns have been addressed at the joint health and safety committee level, but it helps that management supports their efforts. “Whenever I bring something to their attention, either at the joint committee meetings or directly to the manager, they usually address it as soon as possible.”
Store manager, Ron McMullen, is equally complimentary of Alton. “She is quick to point out health and safety concerns and persists until they are addressed. Her organizational skills and meticulous record keeping are invaluable to the joint health and safety committee.”
Kevin Corporon, president of UFCW Local 1000A, adds, “Alton plays a significant role in the development of health and safety initiatives that benefit all UFCW members.” He says currently she is part of a team working to implement training for joint committee members in UFCW-organized grocery stores. “The training will include some of the same issues she has been dealing with in her more than 10 years as a committee member, issues such as workplace inspections and recommendations for health and safety improvements.”
Occupational health and safety training is without a doubt Alton’s latest passion. “Health and safety,” she says, “is an uphill climb, but someone has to do it. I would like to encourage others to get involved. I hope with instructor training I will receive this fall, I can do just that.”
Alton also wants to concentrate her efforts on training young workers. “You would think in a grocery store there is not much chance of getting hurt, but mechanical lifting devices, sharp instruments and wet/slippery floors are just a few examples of the many areas requiring solutions.
Training can help. I personally believe young people, because of their age and lack of experience, also need special attention.”