Workers Health & Safety Centre

Student video emphasizing worker rights recognized by Ontario Minister of Labour

Student video emphasizing worker rights recognized by Ontario Minister of Labour
Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn recently paid a visit to an Ottawa student who finished second in a Ministry of Labour (MOL) health and safety video contest. 
The award-winning video produced by Cristoforos Pietrobon (Pictured here with Minister Flynn.), a student at St. Pius X High School, highlights the many worker rights and employer obligations essential to safeguarding the health and well-being of workers.  The award came with a $1500 cash prize for Cristoforos and a similar amount for his high school. 
In his prepared remarks to those gathered at St. Pius X High School on Friday May 6, 2016, Minister Flynn explained how the video shows a worker who insisted on his rights when asked to do something potentially dangerous. “A lot of us want to make a good first impression. We feel like we shouldn’t refuse to do any work…even unsafe work. But you have that right under the law.” 
Minister Flynn also reminded those attending this recognition event that all workers, including students with jobs, have the right to know about hazards to which they may be exposed and the right to participate in identifying and resolving health and safety concerns. And he explained “It’s against the law for employers to punish you for complying with workplace health and safety law…or for making sure it’s being enforced.”
Dave Killham, Worker Health and Safety Centre (WHSC) executive director was equally impressed with the video. “The messaging presented by Cristoforos in his video was simple and spot on,” says Killham. “Even the title of the video, Stand Your Ground, offers great advice to other young people and all workers for that matter. It is encouraging to see this kind of understanding and its well-deserved recognition.” 
Killham adds, many don’t understand occupational health and safety law here in Ontario and other Canadian jurisdictions place the most significant obligations on employers and supervisors to ensure work is safe and healthy. “All too often workers are subjected to scapegoat messaging that wrongly blame them for injuries, illnesses and deaths. Young workers especially are painted as careless and taking unnecessary risks because they are supposedly cognitively immature and believe themselves invincible.” says Killham. “This misguided messaging tells them to ‘work safe’ when exposed to workplace hazards, instead of telling employers to provide ’safe work’.”
Killham points to a considerable body of research, including research from the Institute of Work & Health that tells us newness to the job and not youth is what’s related to an increased risk for injury. Workers are four to six times more likely to be injured during the first month on a job than workers with more than one year experience on the job. Young workers however, do change jobs frequently. Couple this newness with hazardous workplace exposures and little or no training and it is little wonder new and young workers are at risk.
Regardless of the evidence, scapegoat messaging persists with many behaviour-based safety programs popular with some employers and their associations.  In marked contrast, WHSC develops and delivers training and awareness programs that are hazard-based and prevention-focused. Among these programs was the WHSC Young Worker Awareness Program (YWAP).  After 26 years of reaching thousands upon thousands of Ontario students with our potentially life-saving program though, the Ministry of Labour Prevention Office has denied funding to the WHSC for its delivery.
Want to view the video Stand Your Ground?
Want to learn about the success of the WHSC’s YWAP program and its current status without MOL funding?
Want additional student/young worker resources from the WHSC?
To learn more about WHSC training and resources:
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Call:    1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training services representative