WHSC 2008 VOLUNTEER ACTIVISTS CAMPAIGN helping activists become agents of change
The three Rs—our past experience defines them.
To an educator the words, “Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic” spring to mind. To the environmentalist “Reduce, Recycle and Reuse” are more familiar. Of course for volunteer health and safety activists the three Rs represent workers’ three rights enshrined in health and safety law—the right to know, the right to participate and the right to refuse.
However, volunteer health and safety activists know it takes more than worker rights to secure safer, healthier workplaces. It takes two more Rs—responsibility and resolve.
We will considerably reduce if not eliminate worker suffering when:
Worker representatives can fully exercise their knowledge, skills and rights to identify workplace hazards and their solutions;
Employers live up to their responsibility to implement these solutions to reduce or better yet eliminate hazards; and
Governments resolve to prosecute those who ignore their legal responsibilities.
However, none of this will come to pass without the efforts of volunteer health and safety activists. Once again WHSC celebrates the many contributions of volunteer activists in this, the 13th Annual Volunteer Activists Recognition Campaign.
Volunteer activists across the province lead by effort and example to ensure workers not only know their rights but are inspired and encouraged to use them to eliminate workplace hazards. Many employers won’t take preventive workplace action unless these activists make the case for it.
The same can be said for government intervention. In the past year alone persuasive activism helped realize significant improvements to health and safety standards and regulations—and their enforcement. Volunteer activists helped convince Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) to launch a new enforcement strategy. Instead of solely targeting workplaces with higher than average lost-time injuries, the MOL says they will also use leading indicators—compliance history, typical work hazards, presence of new and vulnerable workers—to identify workplaces in need of their attention.
Through dedicated campaigns, activists pressed for and won a newly defined workplace violence policy for Ontario (and for now at least, serious consideration of a violence regulation see page 13), an ergonomics tool kit to help prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders, and a province-wide ban on the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides. Activists under federal jurisdiction succeeded in gaining new Canada Labour Code Part II regulations on ergonomics and violence.
The Workers Health & Safety Centre understands changes like these don’t happen overnight. For more than 25 years WHSC has helped equip volunteer activists and others with the knowledge and skills to lead these and many other prevention efforts. Proudly, the WHSC is the only health and safety training centre endorsed by the labour movement. Most unions in Ontario insist upon WHSC as their exclusive training provider. And for good reason, we alone bring a unique workers’ perspective to training so workers can be sure employers are doing the right thing and workers, their representatives and other workplace parties are learning the right way.
Volunteer activists profiled in this issue of At the Source are just three of thousands across Ontario. Read the following pages to learn how these individuals are attempting to secure safer, healthier workplaces and communities. Our photo spread on pages 8 and 9 also feature just some of the many volunteer activists recognized in 2008 by local labour councils and the Workers Health & Safety Centre.
According to Dave Killham, executive director of WHSC, “The work of our volunteer activists is pivotal. Without their advocacy, advances in workplaces and legislatures would not be possible. We applaud their commitment to workers and we are proud to play a small part in preparing them to foster change—change for the better.”