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Teacher Newsmagazine   Volume 23, Number 6, April 2011  

Health and safety: Inception and development of the BCTF Occupational Health and Safety Program

Prior to 1997 there was no division of the BCTF that addressed teachers’ health or safety.

In 1997, Lynne Sinclair was assigned the task of developing and implementing a provincial health and safety program for BCTF members. At that time, most members did not think of themselves as workers and there was little knowledge of the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and their application to BCTF members.

In 1998, Sinclair compiled and published the first BCTF occupational health and safety manual with information from resources such as the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), labour laws, the School Act, building codes, and fire and safety codes. The manual has been updated several times over the years but remains the primary resource for the health and safety program.

In 1999–00, Sinclair developed the Health and Safety training program with a small cadre of health and safety activists. The Health and Safety Advisory Committee to the BCTF Executive Committee was also formed at that time.

In May 2000, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the WCB and BCTF to administer the WCB education and training courses. The training program began with basic Modules 1–5 adapted for the educational environment. These modules required the approval of WCB as they came with certification and complied with the mandatory annual eight-hour training. As such, the BCTF is an internal training partner with WorkSafeBC. The BCTF is not on the external partners’ list published by WSBC as the mandate is to provide training and education only to the public education system.

Since then, the Federation has expanded the number of modules to include indoor air quality, ergonomics, construction and renovation, violence prevention, an in-depth look at joint committees and new and young workers. The training department currently has nine facilitators from various parts of the province.

The training modules are delivered to joint health and safety committees with the intent being to increase the knowledge of health and safety rights and responsibilities for all workers. The most important feature of this model is that they are designed to be delivered not only to BCTF members but also to support staff and employers and their representatives. The point emphasized is that the responsibility to maintain health and safety falls on all workers. The tripartite format remains the focus of the BCTF Health and Safety Program as it addresses all workers and it is this inclusivity that ensures the health and safety of all our colleagues. The WCB processes step outside the collective agreement and labour relations issues.

Health and safety training is provided at School Union Representative Training (SURT) and the Professional Development level as well.

In February 2010, a Manager of Interest for Public Education K–12 was assigned at WorkSafeBC (WSBC). A committee comprised of representatives from BCTF, CUPE, BCPSEA, and WSBC was formed. The intent is to discuss health and safety issues and provide guidance and information to the respective health and safety contacts in WorkSafeBC offices, school districts and locals.

The BCTF health and safety program also includes the WCB advocate for members who file WCB claims. The BCTF WCB advocate helps them through appeal processes if their claims are denied or they do not receive appropriate compensation. 

For further information, please contact: Karen Langenmaier, prevention officer at 604-871-1891 or Patti McLaughlin, WCB advocate 604-871-1890 (toll free 1-800-663-9163).  


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