||Volume 24, Number 2, October 2011
Health and safety
Job action Phase 1: What you can or can’t do
By Karen Langenmaier
There have been a number of questions regarding what you can and what you can’t do relative to health and safety in Phase 1 of our job action.
As the Workers Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation stand outside the School Act, collective agreements, bargaining and labour relations, joint committee members must continue to take part in their responsibilities.
Joint committee members will continue to attend site-based committee meetings, participate in inspection and investigations of incidents and accidents, and take part in their entitlement to the eight hours of release for training and education. If an emergent health and safety issue should arise, teachers on joint committees can meet with administration and the support staff representatives to go through incident investigation processes. For example, if there is a violent incident, the joint committee would conduct an investigation, do a risk assessment, and make recommendations to prevention plans to keep workers safe. Indoor air quality issues, communicable diseases, rodent infestation, asbestos abatement, lock-down procedures, will all require participation from teacher health and safety representatives.
The advice from the job action issues committee however, is that teachers will not participate in district health and safety committees as they are not mandated by the Workers Compensation Act. It is the site-based committee that has the jurisdiction to deal with issues at the site level. The only exception to this is if the local and district have a variance that gives the responsibilities to a district committee. In some locals, a released officer is attending the district committee when issues arise that impact teachers. Some districts have suspended district committee meetings.
A number of questions have come up around WHMIS training. The OH and S Regulation states that if (emphasis added) controlled substances are used in the work area, the employer must provide WHMIS training. The first step in the process would be for the joint committee to do an inspection of the workplace to determine if there are controlled substances, conduct a risk assessment, and then train the workers of the safe use and storage of the chemical or biological agent. If there are no controlled substances in the workplace, then WHMIS training is not required. General WHMIS education must be provided as it pertains to the workplace and as it is in-service, should be provided during work time.
In terms of health and safety education, joint committee members have two avenues from which to choose. Use the BCTF school union rep training and participate in tri-partite training of the joint committee member’s choice. The language in the Workers Compensation Act says that the employer must provide the release time and associated costs of taking training and education. It does not say that the employer must provide the training.
For further information regarding health and safety relative to job action, please contact this office.
Karen Langenmaier, BCTF Income Security Division, email@example.com