Bonnie McLaughlin may soon retire from her job of 39 years, but she says, “You can never retire from health and safety.”
McLaughlin works as an administrative assistant for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. She has been involved in health and safety for as long as she can remember, and in the early days pressed for worker training, including health and safety and first aid training. However, McLaughlin says, she felt like she began making a real difference in 1992 after she and her co-workers became members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and McLaughlin was elected joint health and safety committee (JHSC) representative for the office and clerical workers of District 21.
Adds McLaughlin, “As a joint committee representative, I soon realized under the Occupational Health and Safety Act
I have an equal say in committee meetings, so I was not afraid to speak up and address health and safety issues affecting my co-workers.”
McLaughlin is especially proud of her involvement in addressing the issue of violence in her workplace. She explains workers, and in particular special education assistants, were experiencing violence at the hands of students. In the spring of 2002, she called the Ministry of Labour. After investigating, the inspector wrote four orders, one of which required the joint committee to develop an action plan and design a questionnaire to collect information on workplace violence from all employees. As a result of actions taken by the committee the school board now provides workplace violence and nonviolent crisis intervention training programs to all employees.
In addition to representing members on her workplace JHSC, McLaughlin has represented the support staff of District 21 on the OSSTF provincial council and has sat on OSSTF provincial health and safety committee. She was the first non-teaching staff to have done so.
McLaughlin’s list of community and labour involvement is impressive. She is a member of the Hamilton and District Labour Council’s health and safety committee and Human Rights, Peace, and Status of Women Committee. She is a licensed amateur radio operator and also a trained volunteer for Hamilton’s Community Emergency Response.
Since becoming a Workers Health and Safety Centre-qualified instructor in 1995, McLaughlin has gone on to deliver several Workers Centre training programs both inside and outside the workplace. Still she finds time to further her own education; she is a graduate of Mohawk College’s 180-hour Labour Studies Program.
Ana Misiti, president in District 21, says, “McLaughlin will stop at nothing to get a health and safety issue resolved. She is well known and respected for her knowledge of workplace health and safety and her dedication to workers, not only in District 21, but also in the community.”
For her efforts McLaughlin received the 2002 health and safety activist of the year award presented by the Hamilton and District Labour Council and the Workers Centre.