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January 18, 2013

Ontario vulnerable worker task groups to explore work hazards

TORONTO

Members of the Vulnerable Workers Task Group and the Small Business Task Group have been appointed by Ontario Chief Prevention Officer George Gritziotis.

The formation of the task groups was a recommendation made by the Tony Dean Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety. Vulnerable workers and small business have been two groups identified that would benefit from more involvement with the health and safety system.

The Vulnerable Workers Task Group is comprised of six employer representatives and six worker representatives. It will examine workers that have “a greater exposure than most workers to conditions hazardous to health and safety and who lack the power to alter those conditions,” including immigrant and youth workers, as well as temporary foreign workers.

“The expert panel report noted that worker vulnerability arises for various reasons: not knowing one’s rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act such as the right to refuse unsafe work; having no work experience or training that is job- or hazard-specific; and being unable to exercise rights or raise health and safety concerns for fear of losing one’s job, or in some cases, being deported,” says the Chief Prevention Office.

Dawn Tattle, president of Anchor Shoring & Caissons Ltd, and member of both the Heavy Construction Association of Toronto and the Toronto Construction Association is an employer representative on this task group.

The Small Business Task Group will look at how the Chief Prevention Office can best support small businesses and the sector as a whole.

The Expert Advisory Panel noted that small business have unique challenges in terms of occupational health and safety in the workplace.

“One of the issues in small businesses is that the rate of worker injury is so low — estimated to be one injury every seven to 10 years — it can lead employers to conclude that adequate measures and precautions are in place,” says the Chief Prevention Office. “Another is the absence of guidance and support materials that are relevant to the language, culture and business/organizational situations.”

The Small Business Task Group will also have six employer representatives and six worker representatives. Jason Campbell, an estimator at Dean-Chandler Roofing Ltd and a member of the Ontario Industrial Roofing Contractors Association, will sit as an employer representative on this panel.

“As Dawn and Jason are both members of COCA member associations, COCA is thrilled to have representation on both task groups and are happy to provide any advice or assistance they may need as these task groups get up and running,” said the Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) in a recent newsletter update.

Both task groups are expected to study the issues, gather information and report back to the Chief Prevention Office over a period of not more than 30 months.

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