TRAINING► The Right Thing. The Right Way.
Recognizing certified worker members of joint health and safety committees (JHSCs) play a unique and pivotal role in Ontario workplaces, the Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) has long worked to support them.
In addition to their considerable JHSC responsibilities these dedicated representatives also investigate complaints of dangerous circumstances. Under certain circumstances they even have the authority to order the employer to shut down dangerous work. The decision to exercise this authority however must be informed.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act
requires at least one worker and one management representative of the committee to serve as certified members and receive special training to enable them to carry our their duties. Certification training has two mandatory parts — Basic Certification
(Certification Part I) and workplace-specific hazard training (Certification Part II).
Drawing on their experience of training workers and joint committees province-wide, the WHSC helped develop and deliver Ontario’s original Core Certification Program, launched in 1993. At the time the WHSC trained over 50 per cent of all certified representatives. Two independent studies concluded certification training results in real workplace improvements. In those workplaces surveyed the studies found: increased compliance with legislation; safer work practices; enhanced ergonomic work design; improved joint health and safety committee functioning; and a clearer knowledge among certified members of their health and safety duties and responsibilities.
Today the WHSC remains Ontario’s premier Certification training provider. While others have devolved the program into two days of training, often offered on-line and at home, the WHSC offers a comprehensive, four-day Basic Certification
course and over 60 hazard-modules to meet the second part of the training requirement. Program participants still report the value of this training.
Just ask Janet Wilson. A veteran WHSC-trained instructor, Wilson (United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1977) and others have trained in excess of 300 certified members since certification began in 1993. Wilson who works as a cashier at the Real Canadian Superstore in St. Thomas, Ontario is the worker co-chair of the JHSC. She knows firsthand the benefits of joint Certification training.
“Our joint committee could not function without the Certification training we received from the Workers Centre. We took the training jointly with our management representatives and now our joint committee meetings are more productive and run more smoothly because we all understand our legislated duties and responsibilities and we share common goals regarding health and safety in the workplace,” says Wilson.
For example, the JHSC was able to secure safety shoes for workers handling powered equipment such as power jacks, high stackers and forklifts in warehouses and stock rooms. More importantly, workers are now trained prior to using this equipment which never happened before. In fact Certification training was so well-received by the Real Canadian Superstore and Zehrs stores represented by UFCW Local 1977, the companies agreed to certify additional joint committee members and will train new committee members in future.
Randy Rutledge, manager of Zehrs Stores Wasaga Beach, is pleased with the quality of training his joint committee members have received from the Workers Centre. “Our joint committee members have received top-notch training that has raised their awareness to the level they need to be at in order to make informed recommendations in the workplace. Workers Centre instructors like Janet Wilson are thorough and knowledgeable. I also like that they take their work seriously because health and safety is no joke.”
Peter Saal is the full-time JHSC worker co-chair for the newly formed CVRD-INCO, in Sudbury. A WHSC-trained instructor, Saal (United Steelworkers Union Local 6500) likes the flexibility of the Workers Centre Basic Certification
program which he delivers in-house to workers and management. “We were able to gear the training to our specific needs,” says Saal.
According to Saal, Certification training has positively affected workplace inspections, accident reporting and it has decreased work refusals. “Many of the supervisors and managers are thrust into their positions with little or no prior health and safety knowledge. Now with joint training they are more co-operative and responsive to our recommendations and concerns.”
Another advantage of Certification training is increased knowledge of health and safety hazards and control measures, according to Barry Arsenault (Canadian Auto Workers Union Local 222), a full-time health and safety representative at General Motors car plant in Oshawa. “Newly-certified workers have the advantage of having the most up-to-date information. They also see the workplace with fresh eyes, enabling them to identify hazards that others just don’t see.” Adds Arsenault, “Certified worker members will also push for eliminating problems at the source instead of settling for controls at the worker.”
For example, the company wanted to put up signs to warn of pinch points in some of the machinery in the workplace. The joint committee convinced them to engineer the problem out by redesigning the equipment so that it did not create pinch points in the first place.
The certification experience is equally effective in the public sector. Gloria Petitti, a WHSC-trained instructor for Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3943, works with developmentally disabled adults at Community Living Hamilton. Petitti is proud to report she and her co-workers have applied what they learned in class to the workplaces in which she places her adult clients. “Not only are we more diligent about health and safety in our own workplace we also apply those same principles when choosing a workplace for our clients. Basic Certification
has given us all of the health and safety tools we need to get the job done.”
Petitti’s management counterpart, health and safety coordinator Carol Myke agrees, “Basic Certification
is a balanced program that tells you everything you need to know about health and safety. It’s just that simple.”
Despite these proven benefits, many workplaces have yet to comply with the Certification training mandate, or have fallen out of compliance as trained committee members have moved on. Other workplaces have yet to even establish joint health and safety committees.
Many are keenly aware of these gaps and their associated costs. Last year the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) paid benefits to more than 550,000 workers, surviving spouses and children. In 2005 this amounted to more than $3 billion in worker compensation claim payments. The WSIB also has authority to regulate Certification training. Recently, the WSIB has stated its intent to make Certification and functioning joint health and safety committees a renewed priority.
Hardly surprising, WHSC training schedules for Fall 2007 are focused on Certification training. “We’re hoping the WSIB and Ontario’s Ministry of Labour get serious about Certification training again,” says Dave Killham, WHSC executive director. “In the early days of certification training we delivered over one million person hours of training to workplace parties chosen to serve as certified representatives. This big number included worker and management participants.”
Killham adds, “For some the demand was there because they knew the undesirable alternative to non-compliance. Regardless, once trained most all involved understand Certification training is the right thing to do. Using the Workers Centre as their training provider they also know they’ve done it the right way.”
For more information on Certification
training contact a Workers Centre training representative in your area or visit our web site at: www.whsc.on.ca