Workers Health & Safety Centre

A Day of Mourning Message from Dave Killham, Executive Director, WHSC

A Day of Mourning Message from Dave Killham, Executive Director, WHSC
Our movement for change.
Train for it. Work for it.

“Mourn for the Dead, Fight for the Living.” On April 28, International Day of Mourning, this slogan will echo worldwide as workers, their families, and friends gather to remember those who have been killed, suffer disease or been injured as a result of work. Like many, I will remember much-loved faces behind the often-quoted statistics.

An essential part of our “fight for the living” though is quality occupational health and safety education. Workers and their representatives have long understood its value, indeed its necessity. For them health and safety education is no ivory tower pursuit. For them education best comes in the form of real-life, quality training.

Legal Training Requirements
Canadian law recognizes the need for health and safety training. One would be hard pressed to find a piece of occupational health and safety legislation both federally and provincially that does not include provisions for training. Certainly many workers and their representatives have demanded as much.

According to Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers have a general duty to provide information, instruction, and supervision to workers to protect their health and safety. Training is a key way employers meet this obligation. A constructor or employer must also ensure that at least one member of the joint health and safety committee representing the employer and at least one member representing workers receive special Certification training.

More specifically, employers must provide training as prescribed by regulations such as WHMIS, confined space entry, and safe operator training. Also pending are regulations in Ontario requiring mandatory introductory training for workers, supervisors and worker representatives in smaller workplaces. Training regulations for workers in high hazard industries are also in the works. However, not all training is created equal, which is a major concern.

The Good
Workers know and even research tells us what good health and safety training looks like. Good training embraces proven adult teaching techniques and builds on worker’s experience. It is delivered by a trusted and qualified source providing opportunity for an instructor to observe and confirm learning has taken place. Effective training avoids band-aid solutions, addressing root problems—the hazards themselves. Most importantly, good training provides workers the opportunity to apply what is learned in the workplace.

The Bad
Unfortunately, some of what passes for occupational health and safety training is not training at all. Workers’ experiences have told us this much too. They report employers offering one way lectures of 30 minutes or less or providing videos instead of training. Still others substitutetraining with informationsuch as posters and brochures or push online resources to be reviewed on the workers’ own time.

And...the Ugly
No matter the so-called training format, workers also report wide-spread use of content aimed at downplaying worker health and safety rights and employer responsibilities. Some even go so far as to blame workers for their own demise, rather than the working conditions that gave rise to worker injury, illness or death.

Securing a lifeline
Health and safety training is like securing a lifeline for workers. It is supposed to protect them from harm. Equipped with sufficient knowledge and skills workers and their representatives can: 

  • Exercise  hard-won rights,
  • Recognize workplace hazards,
  • Evaluate and/or apply hazard information,
  • Help develop safe work procedures,
  • Operate equipment/tools safely,
  • Contribute to workplace policies and programs,
  • Recommend solutions to address health and safety concerns.

In short, if properly trained, workers and their representatives can act to help protect their own health and well-being and the health and well-being of others.

Working for change
Workers deserve the best in occupational health and safety training. When they get the training they need, safer, healthier work can follow. When they don’t workers remain vulnerable and tragedy often results.

As Ontario’s only government-designated, labour-endorsed health and safety training centre, the Workers Health & Safety Centre knows what good health and safety training looks like. Our high quality health and safety training products and services help workplaces meet and even exceed health and safety laws. Through quality training, we also help workers fully understand and exercise their rights to a safe and healthy workplace. In short, we understand the importance of training that ensures learning and learning that ensures action.

On April 28, please join me in remembering the faces behind the statistics. For your convenience, we have posted a complete list of Ontario Day of Mourning events. I encourage you to pick one and attend. Together, let’s bring greater attention to the devastation workers, their families and communities are experiencing. Then let’s recommit to the “fight for the living.” Our movement for change – let’s train for it and work for it.

Want to review our 2013, Day of Mourning event listing?

Want to learn more about WHSC training services?

Don’t see the training you need? Call Toll Free 1.888.869.7950 and ask to speak to a WHSC Training Services representative?