Time to Regulate Occupational Health and Safety Professionals
Article Courtesy of The Toronto Star Newspaper Ltd., By PAUL ANDRE
Courtesy of The Toronto Star Newspaper Ltd.
For many Canadians
For many Canadians, Labour Day means the end of summer and a long weekend spent with friends and family. But the holiday was originally created to celebrate trade unions and their contributions to improving workers’ rights. In that context, Labour Day is an important time to reflect on how we can honour that legacy. Improving our occupational health and safety (OHS) systems is a crucial way of doing just that.
In 2015, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, there were 852 workplace-related fatalities in Canada. Workplace injuries are even more common. The association found that an average of 672 workers were injured every day on the job in Canada in 2012. Every day. And those numbers only cover workplaces where workers can receive provincial compensation benefits.
Fortunately, the frequency of work-related injuries and deaths has fallen drastically since the 1980s, which can be attributed to strengthened OHS regulations and more focus on improving OHS outcomes by unions, professional associations and industry. However, during the last decade, statistics measuring workplace injuries and fatalities have stopped showing signs of significant improvement. Clearly, there is still much room to improve OHS regulations and outcomes in Canada. A cornerstone of that push for safer and healthier workplaces should be the study of other countries and their success in that area.
In Canada, OHS falls primarily under provincial jurisdiction, with federal legislation applying only to federally regulated workplaces. Provincial governments routinely review and update their OHS laws and regulations, but they have been complacent about regulating the people responsible for administering OHS in the workplace and at the scene of likely accidents — OHS professionals. That stands in marked contrast to many comparable jurisdictions.
In Germany and Italy, for example, federal and regional governments regulate the educational and professional qualifications required to work as an OHS professional. A similar regulatory system exists in Singapore. In the United Kingdom, OHS professionals are regulated by Royal Charter status, which delegates oversight of the field to a government-recognized association. Chartered status has been applied to some professions in Canada, including accountants.
Overall, several countries with similar systems of government to Canada are leaders on regulating OHS professionals, which ensures consistency and drives best practices for the health and safety of workers. For Canada’s provincial governments, those examples, showing that regulatory oversight of OHS professionals has been successfully implemented in other jurisdictions, should serve as touchstones for future changes to OHS policy.
In Canada, the trend towards government oversight of professions is clear and strong, which is a welcome development. To name but three examples, home inspectors, paramedics and human resources professionals are now regulated in some form in one or more provinces. In fact, provinces are increasingly regulating a suite of health professionals that may include everyone from dental hygienists to diagnostic sonographers, but not OHS professionals.
Because of the lack of regulation of OHS professionals in Canada, there are many people claiming to be OHS professionals without any formal education or professional training. That poses a public safety danger to Canadian workers. Regulating OHS professionals as other countries have done would be a significant step forward in making Canada’s workplaces safer and healthier.
As we celebrate Labour Day in Canada, there could be no better time to take that next step to ensure that Canadian workers leave work healthy, uninjured and alive every day.
Paul Andre, CRSP, is chair of the Board of Governors of the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals and acting president and CEO of Workplace Safety North.
By Mike Winbow
Sept. 12, 2017
Response to Article
A company I worked for in Abbotsford where the BCIT CNST-1100 classes came for a field trip, decided to replace me with another person after 13 months of service. The replacement was the son of a personal friend of the company ownership. This kid who is only 20 years old with less than one year construction experience was now the site safety coordinator. Yes, he has an EMR with the OFA III equivalency, however no professional training or certification for the position of safety. From what I understand a person needs 3 consistent years in the trades to even apply at one of the programs teaching the CNST-1100 course. And it doesn't stop there. We all know that the 2 week course is just the beginning. Yes, ultimately the Primes ownership and Site Superintendent are responsible for the safety of the working crew and are the ones who go to jail if shit hits the fan. However, if the role of site safety has no consequences regarding decisions we make then anybody who is willing to take on that role, really has no initiative to educate themselves and wouldn't care to because they don't hold any responsibilities. Then it becomes just a job and the passion for safety is lost. We don't enter into the safety and first aid occupations to become rich. We do it because it's a calling. I'm sure you all can attest to that. We are here because it is our passion. It's what we believe in and it's our moral, and ethical duty to protect workers. It sure is way more than just a job.
Less than 5 years
A person with less than 5 years hands on work experiences in whatever occupational sector they wish to work in, doesn't have the experience for the position. You have to recognize a hazard, the risks to workers because of that hazard and how to professionally mitigate that problem. At the site I previously mentioned, there were at one time over 200 souls who worked there. They all had somebody who wanted them home after work without injury or worse. Being the safety coordinator is a lot more than making sure everybody has their hardhats on.