August 22, 2012

Ontario’s new prevention council unveiled

A newly established Ontario Prevention Council will help protect workers and improve workplace health and safety across the province, says Ontario’s chief prevention officer.

“I think it’s very significant, not just for the Occupational Health and Safety Act, but also for our stakeholders that we’re moving forward in bringing stakeholders together to play a role in the development of a provincial strategy,” said George Gritziotis.

The council will work with Gritziotis and labour minister Linda Jeffrey on: prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses; development of a provincial occupational health and safety strategy; and proposed changes to funding and delivery of services for the prevention of workplace injuries and occupational diseases.

The Prevention Council is one of the 46 recommendations by Tony Dean and his Expert Advisory Panel after reviewing Ontario’s occupation health and safety enforcement and prevention system.

The council will look at some of the key recommendations from the Dean Report, said Gritziotis, like support for small business and vulnerable workers and the idea of an integrated strategy across occupational health and safety system.

“I think the system...is doing a lot of good things, but we need to get everybody on the same page and moving together,” he explained.

“(It’s important to) extend our capacity so we’re not just relying on the primary system partners, but also looking at who else can play a role, not just in the development of the strategy but the implementation, the people and doers that are actually doing things out there.”

Gritziotis said they were looking for leaders to sit on the council.

“We (were) looking for champions, visionaries, people that can play a leadership role in the development of an occupational health and safety strategy and people also that are looking at this from the perspective of the needs of all workplaces and all parts of the province,” he said.

Labour representatives will be: Patrick Dillon, Business Manager and Secretary Treasurer, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario; Colin Grieve, an occupation disease worker advocate for the Hamilton and Ontario Professional Firefighters Associations; Nancy Hutchison, the secretary treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labour; and Bryan Neath, the regional director for Ontario for United Food and Commercial Workers Canada.

Dillon has said for years that there needs to be a shift from due diligence to proactive prevention.

“I believe we need people to come together representative of everybody in our workplaces — government and financial institutions, everybody — and get our heads around what it takes to cause that culture shift,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to sitting down at the Prevention Council with the mixture of people that are there to work on just that.”

Linda Vannucci, director of Toronto Workers’ Health and Safety Legal Clinic, will be a non-union worker representative.

Michael Oxley, the president and chief financial officer of DuPont Canada; Gloria Rajkumar, CEO of Superior Independent Medical Assessment Centres; and Roy Slack, the president of Cementation Canada Inc. will be the employer representatives.

Graeme Norval, the associate chair and undergraduate coordinator for the University of Toronto’s department of chemical engineering, will be the occupational health and safety expert.

A priority area for Dillon is incentive programs.

“I’m just not convinced that they’re having the impact that they’re supposed to have,” he said, adding that throughout Canada and the United States, workers who raise legitimate safety concerns find themselves on the first layoff in his opinion.

“I think that the real culture shift will come when the employer community gets their minds around giving the workers incentives for raising legitimate safety issues.”

In its August newsletter, the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) said the absence of a construction employer on the Prevention Council is a “serious and glaring mistake.” In the newsletter, COCA said it has communicated with Jeffrey’s office and to the MOL’s prevention office.

Gritziotis became Ontario’s first Chief Prevention Officer last September and said despite not having a Prevention Council; they have pushed forward on some of the recommendations made in the Dean Report

“There are a lot of good things happening and the transition from WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) to MOL has been smooth and WSIB will continue to play a role,” he said.

The “Prevention Starts Here” program posters have been published, the mandatory health and safety awareness workbook has been piloted and the supervisor training has been posted.

Gritziotis will lead the development of a single system-wide occupational health and safety strategy. Release of a final strategy is targeted for late fall 2012 with implementation beginning in 2013.

Steps are being taken to establish committees recommended by the Expert Advisory Panel Report to support the needs of small business and vulnerable workers. An announcement is expected later in the summer.

The Prevention Council will be an 11-member council, though nine members have been announced. One employer representative and a representative from the WSIB are currently being finalized and will be announced in the near future.

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