||Volume 20, Number
1, September 2007
Health and Safety: New WorkSafeBC rules apply to you
By Mark Keelan
During the summer, while BCTF members were enjoying a much needed holiday, or taking courses, or teaching summer school, or participating in some of the many other activities that occupy their time, new provisions in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation came into force. Often new regulations have little impact on the education sector, but in the case of this summers new regulations, many BCTF members will be affected.
The new rules apply to the orientation and training of young or new workers. Section 3.22 defines a young worker as any worker who is under the age of 25. Some BCTF members meet that criterion. However, it is the definition of new worker that includes a large portion of the membership. Section 3.22 defines a new worker as "any worker who is:
- new to the workplace,
- returning to a workplace where the hazards in that workplace have changed during the workers absence,
- affected by a change in the hazards of a workplace, or
- relocated to a new workplace if the hazards in that workplace are different from the hazards in the workers previous workplace."
How do the definitions of a new worker apply to BCTF members? The following are some examples of how the new definitions apply. The list is certainly not exhaustive.
- anyone who is newly hired
- a teacher on call who has not been at the workplace before
- a teacher returning to school in September who has a potentially violent student enrolled in her class
- a teacher returning from a leave of absence
- anyone who is working in a school that is undergoing renovations
- anyone working in a new classroom or a new wing in the school
- an English teacher who is now teaching Science
- anyone who has transferred to a new school.
Section 3.23 states that before a new or young worker begins work in a workplace, she or he must be given health and safety orientation and training specific to the workplace (emphasis added). The list of topics that must be covered in the orientation and training is comprehensive and includes, among other things, information about the employers and the workers rights and responsibilities, violence in the workplace, first aid, WHMIS, workplace health and safety rules, and hazards to which the worker may be exposed.
By the time you read this it could be a month or more since the employer should have provided orientation and training. It is probable that many new and young workers have begun work but have not had the required training. It is not too late! Section 3.24 states that the employer must provide a young or new worker with additional orientation and training if it is clear by observation that the worker is not able to perform work tasks safely or if requested by the young or new worker (emphasis added).
The obligation on employers to provide health and safety instruction and training is not new. Various provisions of the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation require that all workers receive appropriate instruction and training. What is different about the new regulations is that all of the topics that must be covered are listed in one place and that employers must be able to provide documentation that proves young and new workers have had their orientation and training.
Each year in British Columbia an average of 15,000 teacher workdays are lost due to workplace injury or occupational disease costing school districts millions of dollars. Virtually all of these injuries are preventable. Orientation and training have been proven to reduce injury and disease. BCTF members should insist that they receive the orientation and training to which they are entitled.
Mark Keelan is the BCTFs health and safety officer for prevention.