Workers Health & Safety Centre

“Real” health and safety training defined by WHSC scholarship winners

The Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) has selected five deserving students to receive 2018 WHSC Ontario post-secondary education scholarships. 
As in past years, students responding to the 18th annual WHSC Student Scholarship Contest were asked to write an essay answering a question related to a key health and safety concern. This year, they were first asked to consider employer obligations to ensure workers, supervisors and other workplace parties get the training they need in order to fully understand workplace hazards and the many ways hazardous exposures can be eliminated or limited. They were then asked to write an essay explaining what “real” or effective training looks like and how to ensure employers meet their training obligations.  

Shortcomings of passive training

Scholarship recipient Sarah Brillinger, a graduate of Newmarket High School began her essay by defining what ineffective training looks like. She shared a workplace experience with a “training video”. “Although this specific video was informative…I was never able to apply my knowledge and therefore I am not confident that the information was truly retained.”
Jake Austin-St. John, scholarship recipient and graduate of Huntsville High School, agrees passive training is less than ideal, explaining in his essay submission, “Training sessions become more effective as the individual becomes more involved.” He added, “The employers must be held accountable for ensuring that all of their employees have completed all training sessions, and have retained the information.”
To this end, Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School graduate and successful scholarship candidate, Helena Kunic acknowledged the value of a “demonstration and simulation” approach to training. Kunic added though, “The most important part of the training is that it should be complete and not have any shortcuts, making sure to address the core problems and hazards and prioritize the safety of the individual.”
These student experiences and insights mirror what the literature tells us. For instance, researchers from Ontario’s globally recognized Institute for Work and Health weighed in on the issue of passive approaches to learning just last year. They evaluated programs designed to meet Ontario’s mandatory worker health and safety awareness training requirements and found many “were not effective in increasing awareness and empowerment.” They further observed, “Mode of training matters. Passive training (completing OHS awareness training on-line or through a workbook) is less effective than active (instructor facilitated) training on both awareness and empowerment.”

New memorial scholarships

In addition to the essay requirement, this year’s scholarship candidates were invited to share something of their contributions to the quality of life in their school and community, both in their own words and in a letter of recommendation from a teacher, other educator or representative of a community organization. The combination of the two factors (scores weighted ¾ for the essay and ¼ for co-curricular activities) determined three scholarships of $1,000 each, plus two top memorial awards of $2,000 each.
Erica Koeslag, graduate of Perth and District Collegiate Institute, was awarded the Clifford Pilkey, WHSC Founder Memorial Scholarship. In addition to writing a high quality essay and achieving academic success, Koeslag, demonstrated strong social consciousness by contributing volunteer hours at school and beyond. Among other efforts, she worked with individual students to help improve their basic reading and writing skills and at a community food centre working to operate a food bank and educational classes on the power of quality food to promote well-being, as well as advocating for social policies to address food insecurity and poverty.
Meantime, Hunter Lancia, was awarded the Fred Upshaw, Champion for Social Justice Memorial Scholarship. Lancia, a graduate of Hamilton’s St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School, showed exemplary volunteerism in his school and wider community totaling almost 700 hours. His efforts included volunteer work at a local Ronald McDonald House and as a community-based counselor helping local kids build self-esteem and confidence. He also spent time in support of a local homeless shelter, including the initiation of a winter clothing drive.
“Both Erica and Hunter are worthy recipients of these awards,” says Dave Killham, WHSC Executive Director. “During their years as trade union leaders, Clifford and Fred were fearless champions of workers’ rights, human rights, women’s rights, social equity and last but certainly not least, worker health and safety,” says Killham. “Judging by the ideas and contributions of all our scholarship winners and indeed, many more from those whose submissions we received, this next generation will carry on the good work of those who have gone before them.”
Please note: No portion of WHSC revenues or grants from the Ministry of Labour support student scholarships and bursaries. WHSC contributions to these important initiatives are financed solely through funds raised at the Clifford Pilkey Memorial Golf Fundraiser.
Please keep an eye out for details about the 2019 scholarship contest to be posted online and promoted through various WHSC media channels in early 2019.
Want to meet the 2018 WHSC Student Scholarship winners?
For more than 30 years, WHSC training has delivered hazard-based, prevention-focused training to workplaces in all sectors of the economy. Further, WHSC offers several information resources including a number aimed at new and young workers.
To learn more:
Call:   1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak with a training services representative