Workers Health & Safety Centre

STUDENTS INVITED to apply for WHSC cash scholarships

Do you know an Ontario high school student off to college or university this coming fall who could benefit from occupational health and safety awareness and maybe even some cash?  
If so, you will want to advise them the annual Workers Health and Safety Centre (WHSC) Student Scholarship Contest is now accepting applications. This scholarship initiative, in its 22nd year, seeks to inform young people of the risks to their safety and health at work and their many legal rights that when acted upon can help ensure employers and supervisors meet their significant obligations to protect workers. The right to know, to participate, to refuse, to be trained and be competently supervised are just some of these rights.

This year applicants are asked to write an essay sharing their understanding of these rights and any experience they or someone they know had relating to unsafe and unhealthy work and acting on any of these rights. 


New workers at risk

“Research evidence and the experiences of workers suggest they will have many stories to share, as new workers, many of whom are students, are at greatest risk of suffering an acute injury,” explains WHSC executive director, Andrew Mudge. In fact, these at-risk, often under-trained and inexperienced workers are four times more likely to suffer an injury in the first month of work compared to those with more than one-year experience. This includes those new to the workforce, new to a specific job or task and even new to the country. 
Canadian researchers have also raised serious red flags about exposure to carcinogens among young workers, particularly those employed in construction, farming, and other outdoor occupations. The researchers offered that young workers exposed to workplace carcinogens are especially vulnerable because they may be unable to recognize and assess hazardous exposures. Even when they can, they often fear employer reprisals for speaking out about these exposures despite the fact employers cannot fire or discipline any worker for doing so.  
“Effective training can help workers gain better insight into the hazards they might face, their legal rights, and where to turn for help, says Mudge. “Unfortunately, many workers either don’t have access or the training they receive is inadequate.”

Inadequate training

Consider, for instance, the employer duty to ensure workers and supervisors complete an occupational health and safety awareness program that meets the regulatory requirements outlined in Ontario Regulation 297/13. According to research undertaken by Ontario-based Institute for Work and Health (IWH),
this awareness training is “not effective in increasing awareness and empowerment.” In short, it fails to meet the goals established by the Ontario government including increasing workers’ and supervisors’ knowledge of basic rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and heighten awareness of basic workplace health and safety issues.   
Equally concerning are the results of a recent Angus Reid survey of more than 1,000 Canadian business owners, managers, and decision-makers undertaken from Feb. 26 to March 11, 2024. Just 74 per cent of respondents said their company has safety training. This means more than one in four employers don’t offer any training failing to meet a significant legal obligation. In smaller workplaces lack of compliance was reported to be even more pronounced. 

Training compliance and quality matter 

“Many employers are clearly not aware of their training obligations including basic health and safety awareness and WHMIS or worse are simply turning a blind eye,” says Mudge. “Perhaps it’s time the government considers renewing awareness campaigns about these obligations as well as strengthening enforcement initiatives. They might also consider reviewing training standards for worker and supervisor awareness and implementing standards for WHMIS and other mandatory programs to help ensure quality control.”
Workers Health and Safety Centre, Ontario’s only government-designated training centre, remains committed to offering quality training that goes beyond minimum requirements and meets the needs and obligations of all workplace parties. Deliver the wrong information or not enough and the harm workers face may be heightened. This is especially true of vulnerable workers, including those new to work many of whom are students.   

Cash awards available

The WHSC Student Scholarship Contest is open to Ontario high school students entering full-time or part-time studies at a publicly funded Ontario post-secondary institution.

In addition to submitting an essay, applicants must also share 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 top applicant will be awarded the Clifford PilkeyWHSC Founder Memorial Scholarship and receive $5,000. The second-place applicant will be awarded the Fred Upshaw, Champion for Social Justice Memorial Scholarship and receive $3,000. Up to five additional applicants who merit recognition will receive $1,000 each.

Submissions are due by 4:00pm on Friday, July 26, 2024. Applicants should read the scholarship rules and application form very carefully.

Scholarship winners will be announced in fall 2024 through various WHSC media platforms and e-news publication. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe today.

Please note: We will only contact those students whose essay qualifies for a scholarship.

Please also note: No portion of WHSC revenues or government grants support this scholarship contest. WHSC contributions to this important occupational health and safety awareness and post-secondary education initiative is financed solely through funds raised at the Clifford Pilkey Memorial Golf Fundraiser.

To learn more about the WHSC Student Scholarship Contest please download and share the following:
2024 Student Scholarship Rules
2024 Student Scholarship Application Form

Related resources
Ontario’s worker OHS awareness training ineffective, IWH study finds
A guide to Occupational Health and Safety Act requirements for basic awareness training
Link between newness and higher injury risk confirmed by systematic review (IWH)
Young workers vulnerable to harmful job exposures too study finds
Young worker resources

Need more information?
Contact a WHSC training services representative in your area.
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