George Marshall, CEO of Safe Workplaces in Health, met with SEIU-West Worker Safety committee members, staff, and President Barbara Cape, to discuss the recently created safety association dedicated to creating safe workplaces in Health Care. Lori Johb, our SEIU-West worker representative on this association, stated that one of the things that is going to make this organization different, is that there is joint representation from all five Health Care Unions (SEIU-West, CUPE, SGEU, HSAS, and RWDSU) as well as Employer representatives from various Health Regions. Ensuring equal representation was key to the formation of this group and its’ success. We view it as a very positive step in the right direction.
Marshall reported that although WCB stats are not the only measure of workplace injuries, these stats continue to identify Health Care as the number one industry for injury claims within Saskatchewan. In fact, Saskatchewan Health Care is usually in the top two industries across Canada! Over the past 5 years, Health Care has lost ½ million working days which is equivalent to 2400 workers being off work for 1 year.
Although those attending this meeting were not terribly surprised at the statistics, it clearly identified that our Health Care members are being hit the hardest. This Association may prove to be a resource to us and we must utilize them to the best of our ability to make positive change in our workplaces.
The top priority for this Association is to change the culture of safety in Health Care to one that values safety foremost. To do this, they have identified three key factors that need to change.
1) Leadership – Employers have to equate worker safety to resident/patient/client safety. They have to view safety as an investment and they have to recognize that prevention strategies are necessary if we are to move forward. Unions must also reinforce their commitment to safety and invest in training and encouraging union members to think of their safety first. Unions/stewards/workers need to support members when they come forward with safety issues and encourage them to report all injuries.
2) Accountability – Employers are required by legislation to have OH&S committees. There needs to be support and training offered to ensure these committees are functioning properly. The root cause of incidents and accidents need to be determined for all workplace incidents and again, prevention rather than blame, needs to be a focus for committees in the resolve of the incident report.
3) Systems – need to be in place to ensure health and safety in the workplace; this includes proper training, orientation, safety procedures, prevention strategies, effective communications, accurate reporting, access to proper safety equipment, root cause incident analysis, well functioning OHS Committees among the many other components.
This association has lots of work to do; however, they have made positive first steps. They have completed the staff recruitment piece and are in the process of beginning their work with Employers and Unions. Soon they may be assisting OH&S committees to function in the way the law intended. SEIU-West is proud of the work that Lori Johb has done, on your behalf, with this association. We know that this is a huge issue for our members and that the crushing workload in Health Care need to be addressed. Lori carries this message forward at the safety association level and is a strong advocate for workers safety. She shares the perspective of health care providers who bear the burden of unsafe staffing levels every day – she understands the challenges faced by all members in the sector.
SEIU-West continues to strive for achievements at the bargaining table as well as any other forum we participate in. Please continue to fill in your Workload Tracking Form and send them in to your union office. Your unit chairperson will be able to find more forms if you need them. Together we can make a difference!