‘Doing the right thing’ is the simple yet powerful motto that motivates Joe Massé. It’s certainly what drives his efforts as a workplace health and safety representative.
Massé is a member of Service Employees International Union Local 2 Brewery, General and Professional Workers’ Union (SEIU Local 2 BGPWU). A mechanic truck driver by trade, for almost 30 years he’s worked at Labatt’s Brewery in London, Ontario. Having represented the concerns of transportation department workers for about 15 years on the joint health and safety committee, Massé is now also worker co-chair and a designated certified member.
Looking back, Massé admits the joint committee wasn’t as effective as it could have been. “Quite honestly it was dysfunctional. We had difficulty getting problems solved partly because we didn’t have terms of reference to guide us.” With help from Ted Mansell, SEIU Local 2 secretary-treasurer, who also oversees health and safety, the joint committee at Labatt’s has drafted terms of reference and Massé reports matters are indeed moving forward.
With a good structure now in place, they’ve turned their attention to building up the skills of the JHSC. Massé completed WHSC instructor training this spring and immediately set to work using the WHSC Basic Certification program to jointly train four new committee members, two each representing workers and management.
A well functioning committee has made other resolves easier too. Recent changes to confined space entry regulations and others governing respirator use has generated a lot of training activity. Massé had a hand in developing in-house training materials for both.
Right now, fulfilling mandatory lift truck training requirements is a priority says Massé. “We have about 120 forklift operators throughout the plant. They stack pallets of beer cases each piled three high. Each pallet weighs about 3,000 pounds so they need a lot of training and awareness to do the job safely.”
Massé and the local union executive are laying the groundwork for the future by developing skills needed to tackle the difficult issue of occupational disease, something they call a big unknown. The union local has determined worker certified members will receive WHSC Occupational Disease: Making the Link
training as part of their Certification process. Says Massé, “We want to equip ourselves with the skills now to handle potential disease claims down the road. Ideally though this and our other joint committee training will help identify hazards before they cause illness.”
Envisioning his retirement in a few years Massé wants to complete yet another important task before then. The 150 year old brewery site is riddled with abandoned underground tanks containing engine oil. Massé, through the joint committee, has been tracking down and reviewing old blueprints and records in hopes of safely removing the tanks and any contaminated soil. “Wherever possible we try to be proactive,” says Massé. “In the end it’s about taking responsibility and doing the right thing.”
Dan Flannigan, president of the SEIU Local 2 BGPWU bargaining unit at Labatt’s Brewery London says Massé is an invaluable health and safety resource and has made huge inroads in addressing problems within the plant. “Quite honestly, I’d be lost without Joe,” says Flannigan. “Our joint health and safety committee had been stalled for a number of years but with Joe pushing, things have really turned around. And now, Joe is helping to train the next generation to ensure this good work continues. What more can you ask for?”