Worker and continued collective activism is the way forward towards safer and healthier workplaces. This was the message delivered by health and safety forum panelists and echoed by delegates to the 13th
Biennial Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) convention.
The panel discussion began with OFL secretary-treasurer Nancy Hutchison sharing tragic workplace violence stories, including the 2005 murder of Lori Dupont. Dupont had advised her employer she was being harassed and feared for her safety at the hands of a former partner and doctor at the hospital where she worked as a nurse.
The preventable death of Lori Dupont and others prompted a campaign by the labour movement demanding new laws to protect workers from violence and harassment. Though important gains have been achieved, Hutchison highlighted the continuing efforts to make violence-free workplaces an employer obligation
. This includes stronger protections relating to harassment, abuse and the risk of domestic violence spilling into workplace settings.
Panelist Shaun Rouse, financial secretary of UNIFOR Local 1106 and health care advocate, focused more specifically on the essential role individual workers must play in the pursuit of prevention.
Rouse spoke of the significant risks faced by health care workers including violence, harassment and a range of working conditions leading to musculoskeletal pain and disorders. “We need to care as much for our own health and well-being as we do for our patients and clients. It is not acceptable that we simply go home, take a Tylenol, use an ice pack to dull the pain and go back to work tomorrow
He challenged delegates “to be better activists in our own workplaces. We need to stand up and tell people what they are saying or doing is inappropriate. We must report all incidents and injuries. We must recommend and demand preventive action. ”
Delegates from a range of sectors then took to the microphones to share their stories of violence, harassment and abuse and appealed for support of Resolution #68—Workplace Violence
. This resolution called for the OFL and affiliates to continue efforts demanding stronger regulatory protection, more significant consequences for employers who fail to protect workers and reminding workers of their duty to report all incidents
With unanimous delegate support, this resolution passed as did Resolution #62 calling on the OFL and affiliates to raise awareness of the factors impacting the mental health of workers
including bullying, harassment, threats of violence and excessive work demands. The resolution also calls for the promotion of a relatively new resource developed by workers for workers called the Mental Injury Prevention Tool (MIT) Kit. While most workplace mental injury resources focus exclusively on how workers can cope with stress, MIT provides a blueprint to improve mental health.
Want to read various OFL convention reports?
Health, safety and compensation report
Convention report on health, safety and workers compensation including adopted resolutions
For our part, the Workers Health and Safety Centre continues to assist workplace parties through training
and information services
aimed at raising awareness about stress, mental injuries, violence and harassment and many other work-related health and safety issues (specific resources listed below).
To learn more:
Call: 1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training service representative
Want to read violence, harassment, stress/mental injuries-related resources from the WHSC?
WHSC Workplace violence resources
Ontario proposes expanded protection against workplace harassment
Personal coping not the solution for deadly work-related stress
Smartphone app helps target workplace stress
Implementing the CSA Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace
New resource focuses on stress and mental injury prevention
WHSC mental injury product sheet