Tag Archives: Health and Safety

Media Release: SEIU-West Members Target Safe Staffing Levels

September 10, 2012 For Immediate Release

Saskatoon – SEIU-West members employed in the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) are concerned that the ‘same old strategy’ is being used by the health region to slash their deficit.

“SHR uses the term ‘vacancy management’,” says Judy Denniss a Licensed Practical Nurse within SHR. “But what this means in the real world experience is that they keep much needed positions vacant which results in hospitals and nursing homes working short staffed on a regular basis. This does not align with the pledge SHR made to have the right person at the right time, to provide the right service to the client, patient or resident.”

SEIU members who work as part of the health care team want to improve the quality of publicly-delivered health care services and reduce waiting times through the design and use of efficient and timely processes, not through the reduction or elimination of those services.

“Our members perform a valued and proud service to clients, patients and residents in this region,” states Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West. “We have been consistent in our identification of the problems, including real life examples, of inadequate staffing levels and unsafe workloads which ultimately impact the quality of care provided to the people of Saskatchewan.”

The latest 2011 stats from the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) indicate that there are 5,060 reported injuries in the healthcare system. 1,800 of these injuries are incurred by staff who are involved in ‘Assisting Occupations’, which includes the lift, transfer and repositioning of patients, clients and residents. In 2011 alone, 504 back injuries and 214 shoulder injuries were reported.

“SEIU-West has received more than 400 examples of shifts worked by our members with insufficient staffing levels in SHR this year alone. Cutting staffing levels magnifies the problem of injuries and lost time in the sector,” continued Cape. “It is clear that deficit reduction cannot and should not come at the expense of the safety of the staff or the patients, clients and residents.”

SEIU-West acknowledges the difficulty in recruiting and retaining skilled and experienced healthcare professional and has stepped up its own efforts to attract people to work in health care, including attending career fairs.

SEIU-West represents approximately eleven thousand health care providers in the province of Saskatchewan. They include special care aides, licensed practical nurses, diagnostic and therapeutic technologists, food service workers, laundry, housekeeping and activity personnel, maintenance, sterile processing workers, and administrative staff, among others.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller, Communications Coordinator

Phone: 306.652.1011 ext. 2250


For a PDF version of this release, click on the link below:

Media Release: SEIU-West Members Target Safe Staffing Levels



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Just the Facts: Summary Offence Ticketing (SOTs)

Are you aware that the Provincial Government is planning some major changes to the way that safety legislation is enforced in Saskatchewan?

With these changes, there is a very real chance that you could be subject to a large fine if proper safety protocols or procedures are not followed in your workplace.

Effective immediately, the Union is advising all members to carefully observe and follow all safety requirements.

These include:

  • wearing personal protective equipment (gowns, gloves, masks, proper footwear);
  • using patient lifts and following TLR; and
  • following all safety rules, even if they have not been enforced in the past.

In other Provinces where they have issued these tickets, the fines to workers are as high as $295.00. Worse yet, if you are named a “repeat offender” the fines can be even higher. The only way to fight a ticket is through the costly court system…at your own expense!

A Special Message to all IN-SCOPE SUPERVISORS:

If you are responsible to supervise others, you may be issued a ticket in addition to them. In Ontario, almost every time a worker is fined, the supervisor gets a ticket as well and 73% of all tickets issued have gone to workers or supervisors.


SEIU-West has sent our submission to the Minister of Labour Relations & Workplace Safety asking him to reconsider this punitive measure. A copy of this is posted on our website: visit www.seiuwest.ca and review the Worker Safety Committee page. We have also asked your employer to partner with us so as to ensure that all workers receive clear communication. We have asked for the appropriate contact info for all SEIU-West representatives on Occupational Health and Safety Committees to facilitate our greater communication with the membership.

We will be updating our website as we obtain more details.


  • Write, call or email the Minister and tell him this is unfair. Tell him that workers should not be bear the personal blame and cost of unsafe staffing levels and a lack of resources in the form of equipment and training.  Contact your MLA as well.
Minister of Labour Relations & Workplace Safety
Mr. Don Morgan (MLA, Saskatoon Southeast)
Phone: 955-4755 (Constituency Office) or
call collect @ 787-5353 (Legislative Assembly)
Email: dmorgan@mla.legassembly.sk.ca and cc your union

Follow all safety rules!

  • Never lift a patient alone or violate TLR. If there are unsafe staffing levels, advise your Manager that you require assistance as soon as possible.  Please complete a Workload Tracking Form and return it to your local union office.  Most importantly, continue to report all injuries and incidents as usual.

Tell your co-workers about this notice.

  • Support each other when taking the time to do your job safely.  Call your Union immediately if you receive any negative feedback from management or co-workers for taking the time to do your job according to safety procedures.

PLEASE remember:

All workers have:

  • The right to know the safety hazards at work – the precautions needed to reduce or eliminate the hazards – all safety training; and
  • The right to participate in the day to day detection, evaluation and reduction of workplace hazards – on your committee, as elected by your peers or appointed by your trade union; and
  • The right to refuse unsafe or unusually dangerous work without fear of repercussions.

For a printable PDF version of this post, click on the link below:

Just the Facts: Summary Offence Ticketing (SOT’s)

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National Day of Mourning – Saskatoon

For workers killed or injured on the job…

Please join the Saskatoon & District Labour Council (SDLC) in a ceremony of remembrance and vigilance, candle lighting observance, guest speakers and wreath laying.

Want to post this on your Union board? Click on the link below for a printable colour version of the poster.

Saskatchewan District Labour Council: Day of mourning poster 2012

Looking for other Day of Mourning events? Click on the link below for a list of other local ceremonies.

Day of Mourning Events Saskatchewan

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National Day of Mourning – Humboldt

For workers killed or injured on the job…

Please join the Humboldt & District Labour Council (HDLC) in a ceremony of remembrance.

Contact: Sandy Weyland

Want to post this on your Union board? Click on the link below for a printable colour version of the poster:

Day of Mourning Events Saskatchewan

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Safety Record in Health-Care—Dismal!

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!

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Did you Know? The significance of the canary in a cage….

Day of Mourning

Click here to download the poster

Early coal mines did not feature ventilation systems, so miners would routinely bring a caged canary into new coal seams.

Canaries are especially sensitive to methane and carbon monoxide and this made them ideal for detecting any dangerous gas build-ups.

As long as the canary in a coal mine kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe.

A dead canary in a coal mine signalled an immediate evacuation.

Click on the link below (or the picture above) to download the poster:

Day of Mournning Poster

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TandemNews.com – Asbestos: Canadians at risk from the silent killer

Publication Date: 2012-03-11

Story Location: http://www.tandemnews.com/viewstory.php?storyid=11997

More than 107,000 people die each year from illnesses related to the highly carcinogenic fibrous substance

By Concita Minutola

“The government’s commitment to transparency on (the issue of) asbestos is disappointing.”

Dan Demers, Director of Public Issues of the Canadian Cancer Society, explains to Corriere Canadese/Tandem that despite the awareness of the risks related to this substance, Canada still has much to do to protect its citizens and those of other countries.

According to one study, taken into consideration by the Canadian Cancer Society, about 152,000 Canadians are exposed to asbestos through work. The data was collected by Carex Canada, a team of researchers from the School of Environmental Health, at University of British Columbia.

According to the World Health Organization, about 125 million people are exposed to asbestos fibres throughout the world. Over 107,000 people die each year from illnesses such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, caused by this highly carcinogenic fibrous substance. Exposure to asbestos can also cause tumour of the larynx and ovaries. Asbestos was a truly valuable resource for Canada. It was used as insulating material in the construction industry, although when the science community learned of the dangers, Canadian industry continued to export it abroad. Today, the sector is in crisis, but asbestos dust continues to be a threat from inside walls and roofs of houses and offices, ready to be released, or into the lungs of many Canadians who discover the consequences only years later.

“The Canadian Cancer Society urges the government to divulge all the information on buildings containing asbestos, homes, public offices, and schools,” Demers says. “So far, we’re disappointed because the government has not yet provided Canadians with this information to determine if they, their families, or work colleagues, have been exposed.”

The Canadian Cancer Society continues to ask government to make information on contaminated buildings public.

“We also asked for the creation of a national registry of cases of illnesses related to asbestos. Individuals who may have been in contact must be informed and undergo regular clinical exams. The registry would also help health personnel evaluate the impact on public health of the number of people becoming ill due to asbestos. Therefore, we want the government to tell us where the asbestos is, and who is affected by it.”

But there are also those who deny the hazardous effects of asbestos dust. Last week the president of an asbestos mine in Quebec questioned data from the World Health Organization and requested the intervention of the federal government against this “bad publicity”.

“That’s nothing new,” comments the Canadian Cancer Society’s public affairs director. “Some time ago when the battle against smoking began, the tobacco industry used similar strategies, questioning scientific facts. Now the asbestos industry is trying to adopt the same strategy, fuelling doubt and criticizing the scientific value of the statistics. We have full trust in the work of the World Health Organization. It’s a credible organization, and the facts are gathered through independent studies. That tactic hasn’t worked in the past, and it won’t work now either.”

Canadian mines are under critical watch for having exported the substance to countries with inadequate worker health safety standards. And along with the mines, so is Ottawa.

“We’re disappointed,” Demers again explains, “because the government continues to oppose the inclusion of asbestos in the international Rotterdam Convention, which states that countries importing asbestos first be informed of the dangers. Seeing that in our territory, restrictions on the use of asbestos are in vigour to protect individuals and workers, it seems surprising to us that the government opposes adopting the same restrictions on the international level.” Last June, the organization – committed to the fight against cancer for almost a century – addressed a letter to the federal government declaring itself “upset and embarrassed by the Canadian delegation’s opposition to the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention list of hazardous substances.”

Demers also cites positive results during these past few years of campaigning. In 2009, the Canadian Cancer Society criticized Ottawa for funding the Chrysotile Institute, “an institute in Quebec that promotes the use and exportation of asbestos,” says Demers. “We don’t find it appropriate that a government financially supports an industry that exports asbestos,” he emphasizes, “though the government has cut funding and from what we know, (the industry) won’t receive any this year either. We’re very pleased. We’ll continue to be on the lookout so that this institute does not receive public funding.”

In yet another positive note, “Canadians,” he says, “are becoming more aware of the fact that asbestos can be found in homes and public offices, and governments are reluctant to provide the same support they once did to this sector. We’re pleased about that.”

But there’s still much more to do, and the biggest step, the Canadian Cancer Society expert confirms, is to make the list of sites containing asbestos public domain.

“That’s information that citizens should have when they go to work and before doing renovation work. It’s about their safety.”

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Safety Hot Topic: Bed Bugs

Signs you might have bed bugs:

•           Itchy, red welts on your body – especially if you can’t remember being outside in a “buggy” area where bites would have occurred.  Remember, however, that not everyone reacts to bed bug bites, so while one of you might be itching like crazy, the other may not even think there is a problem.  While bedbugs may be disgusting, it is important to note that there has never been a study that found that bed bugs transmit any pathogens or diseases.  Yes, you may get a rash or blister, but nothing more serious than that.

•           Dark brown or red spots on your linens, mattress (especially check crevices, box spring, or anything nearby your bed (check nightstands, dressers, behind pictures – they like picture frames – and anything else near the bed).  This, as gross as it sounds, is likely your own blood that the bedbugs have excreted around your room (I know…yuck!!!).

I can’t see them!

They are rare to see during the day. One way to catch them in the act is to quickly turn on the light during the middle of the night (3-4 am – after you’ve been sleeping for a while).

You may even consider leaving a flashlight on your night-stand and using that to quickly shine on your sheets or your bedroom wall to see if you can see any bugs.

If you’ve found something and you’re not sure if they are bed bugs:

If you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to spot a few of the little devils, you can identify them on-line by searching for “Bed Bug Photos”; or contact a local entomologist.

I have Bed Bugs! What now?

First things first, don’t panic. Bedbugs are not the end of the world (though it may feel like it at first!).


  • You are not the only person in the world with bedbugs.
  • You will not die from bedbugs and they are not known to carry diseases
  • Bed bugs are not impossible to get rid of, but depending on your case, you might be in for quite the fight.
  • You WILL need a plan…and a great place to start designing that plan is right here: www.getridofmybedbugs.com

Click this link to download a printable PDF of the poster for your workplace:

Safety Hot Topic: Bed Bugs

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Letter to the Committee of Review: Workers Compensation Act/Committee of Review – Final Report

This letter was sent on February 28, 2012 to the Committe of Review Consultations. Here is a short excerpt:

“As set out in our May 3, 2011 Submission, “SEIU-West submits that a re-affirmation of commitment to the Meredith Principles be included in the 2011 Committee of Review Report.” The historic compromise was based on five key principles:

To read the full letter, please click on the link below for the PDF:

Letter to the Committee of Review – Workers Compensation Act/Committee of Review – Final Report

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Media Release: Public Safety and Worker Safety Go Hand in Hand

February 17, 2012
For Immediate Release

Saskatoon – Residents and workers at St. Mary’s Villa in Humboldt received difficult news yesterday.  The Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) has determined that structural problems exist with the floor in one wing of the facility. Their decision, in an effort to take a proactive approach and prevent risk of harm or injury to residents and workers, was to close this Wing and move residents out.

“St. Mary’s Villa is not unique. The fact is that health care facilities all across the province are aging and renovations, or in some cases full replacement, are needed,” said Barbara Cape, President of Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West). “The public and residents need a safe place in which to access services, and our members need a safe place to work.”

Years of under-funding infrastructure and putting off renovations have left the public healthcare system in a tenuous situation when it comes to health and safety. In 2008, the government put out a plan to invest 152.8 million dollars to build 13 new long-term care facilities to replace 13 outdated facilities in order to get them up to the standards that seniors deserve. “We were encouraged by that plan, but we don’t know where that plan stands, if it’s going ahead or if the government has a new plan for healthcare infrastructure.  We have reached out to the Minister of Health in an effort to talk about problems and solutions in the health sector, however, he has not agreed to meet as of yet,” said Cape.

One contributing factor to the Health Regions’ crumbling infrastructure is the lack of tradespeople within the healthcare system. “Recruitment and retention of tradespeople within the healthcare system has not kept pace with the needs of the facilities. It is ideal to have a pool of maintenance staff that can provide electrical, plumbing and carpentry services on an ongoing basis to maintain buildings and infrastructure. It’s difficult to keep tradespeople in the healthcare system when there are other sectors with much higher compensation packages available.

“This situation should not open the debate about public-private partnerships. Rather, this should be an opportunity to fulfill a promise to the people of Saskatchewan to provide quality health care and put patients first. Saskatoon Health Region has cast a wide net to gather solutions to the current dilemma facing the residents of St. Mary’s Villa. SEIU-West members stand ready to work with the Health Region and arrive at solutions for the residents,” continued Cape.

SEIU-West represents approximately twelve thousand working people in the province of Saskatchewan. They include members who work in healthcare, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller, Communications Coordinator – 306.652.1011 ext. 2250

Click on the link below for a printable PDF of this release:

Media Release: Public Safety and Worker Safety Go Hand in Hand

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