TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 10, 2012) - The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) welcomed yesterday's Ontario government announcement of the province's first Prevention Council on Occupational Health and Safety. Included in the announcement was the appointment of OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison and four other worker representatives to advise the government on measures to protect workers across the province.
"The appointment of five strong worker advocates gives us reason for cautious optimism that the government will take seriously the need to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities like the devastating tragedies in Etobicoke and Hampstead that claimed so many lives in the past few years," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "Ontario averages over 400 workplace fatalities every year and nearly 250,000 injuries. It is up to the new Prevention Council to establish a new era of 'zero-tolerance' for employer negligence towards workplace health and safety."
The Prevention Council was created in response to recommendations of the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, which conducted a review of Ontario's existing prevention system following the tragic deaths of four migrant workers when their scaffolding on a Toronto high-rise collapsed on December 24, 2009. These deaths were the catalyst for the OFL's high-profile "Kill a Worker, Go to Jail" campaign and featured prominently in the Panel's 46 recommendations.
"A priority for Labour is to secure the implementation of the Expert Panel recommendations and ensure the enforcement of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations," said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison. "But we also need additional regulations to address outstanding hazards not addressed in current legislation. Issues like repetitive strain injuries, protection for vulnerable workers, violence against taxi drivers, and inadequate regulations within the education sector are also top of mind concerns."
In addition to the OFL's Nancy Hutchison, Patrick Dillon (Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario), Colin Grieve (Ontario Professional Firefighters Association), Brian Neath (United Food and Commercial Workers Canada) and Linda Vannucci (Toronto Workers' Health and Safety Legal Clinic) were also appointed to represent workers' interests on the Council.
"As an OFL representative at the table, I will be working with affiliates to bring forward the voices of workers from every sector," said Hutchison. "The risks they face vary in every workplace and prevention is only possible if the government is listening to all the people whose lives are on the line every day."
"Throughout this process, we will be watchful to prevent the adoption of strategies that blame workers for the dangerous health and safety conditions they are often forced to work in," said Hutchison. "Workers' lives are jeopardized when negligent employers put profits and cost-cutting ahead of proper training, supervision, hazard elimination and safety equipment. We are hopeful that the council will give us the tools to empower workers to make their workplaces safer and to bring bad bosses to justice."
The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and over one million workers in Ontario. For more information on the OFL, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.