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OHCOW satellite office in Peterborough secured with help from worker advocates

Marion Burton, president of Peterborough & District Labour Council
Peterborough-area workers now have access to independent occupational health services with the opening of a satellite office of the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers.

Dave Wilken, OHCOW chief operating officer said, “The opening of this satellite office is a testament to the determined and sustained activism of the workers and retirees from the GE and Ventra Plastics plants, supported by Unifor and many members of the Peterborough community.”

Funding for the office follows years of sustained and collaborative effort by OHCOW and its labour and community partners.

In 2004, OHCOW and Unifor hosted the largest ever occupational disease intake clinic held in Ontario with some 750 active and retired workers or their survivors from two Peterborough plants — General Electric and Ventra Plastics. They turned out to complete medical questionnaires, contribute to body maps and help develop workplace exposure profiles.

Want to contact the OHCOW Peterborough satellite office?

OHCOW Peterborough satellite office is now accepting new patients. The office provides service Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9am to 4pm.
OHCOW Peterborough Satellite Office
349A George St., Suite 206
Peterborough, ON K9H 3P9
Telephone:  705-749-3444
Fax:   705-745-2463

With additional support from Unifor national, a GE Retirees Occupational Health Advisory Committee was created and carried out the painstaking work of collecting information and developing workplace exposure profiles for the plant. The report, released last May, reveals how workers were exposed to more than 3,000 toxic chemicals, including at least 40 known or suspected human carcinogens at the GE Peterborough plant. It was hoped the report would provide support for workers’ compensation claims. Of those claims previously denied, only 71 of 223 were overturned by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Quality occupational health services

Marion Burton, president of Peterborough & District Labour Council since 2006 (pictured above [right], with others gathered to mark Day of Mourning 2018), says workers and their representatives understood early on it would require a broader coalition of labour and community partners to not only raise awareness of occupational and environmental carcinogens, but to drive action and justice on behalf of affected workers, their families and the entire community. Says Burton, “We knew then OHCOW’s services would be essential for this work to succeed. Many, including worker advocates who have since died from work-related cancers, were among those lobbying for an OHCOW office in Peterborough. Thanks to those efforts and others, all workers in the Peterborough area, regardless of the work they do, or their union status, will now have access to quality occupational health services.”

Like the Workers Health and Safety Centre, OHCOW was originally a project of the Ontario Federation of Labour. With offices established in Hamilton and then Toronto, OHCOW was funded to provide effective and independent clinical and workplace assessment services — a perfect complement to WHSC’s already-established training mandate.  Early successes convinced the government to fund additional clinics in Windsor, Sudbury, Sarnia and Thunder Bay. In 2016, funding was also secured for a clinic in Ottawa.

Today, WHSC and OHCOW are led by an autonomous board of directors and funded through employer assessments paid to the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board and transferred to the Ministry of Labour, who are responsible for health and safety prevention in Ontario.

Working together

Through an inter-disciplinary team of nurses, hygienists, ergonomists, client service coordinators, administrators and contracted physicians, OHCOW provides comprehensive occupational health services, free of charge. Along with the critical input of occupational health practitioners, OHCOW’s model also includes a role for workers and their representatives to participate in assessing and addressing workplace hazards. To this end, OHCOW has developed several user-friendly hazard assessment tools, many of which have been embedded in WHSC training programs.

“From the outset, WHSC has enjoyed a successful partnership with OHCOW,” observes Dave Killham, WHSC Executive Director. “Together, we have worked with our mutual constituency to raise important issues like occupational disease, musculoskeletal disorders and workplace stress.

“Better yet, we have developed services to help our constituency and clients properly address these issues. With OHCOW as the clinical and technical arm, and WHSC as the training arm, we work to ensure workers, their representatives and employers are equipped to identify, assess and control or eliminate the hazards workers face. Added OHCOW resources now readily available in Peterborough is another significant step forward for those we were established to serve,” says Killham.

To learn more about OHCOW and its range of services, visit their web site:

Related information and resources:
WHSC training and information resources:
To learn more: 
Call:   1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak with a training services representative