Atlantic health and safety activists attend CCOHS Forum in Halifax

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Group of seven Unifor members and staff stand on stage below the CCOHS Forum banner

Members of the Atlantic Regional Council Health, Safety and Environment Standing Committee attended a two-day forum hosted in Halifax by the Canadian Council for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) titled “The Changing World of Work”.

“There are so many ways our workplaces are changing and must change to deal with shifts in worker needs in regard to our changing climate and changing technology,” said Vinay Sharma, Unifor’s Director of Health, Safety and Environment. “The CCOHS Forum is an excellent opportunity to explore new ways to protect workers’ physical and mental wellbeing.”

Unifor was the platinum sponsor for this year’s event that saw more than 100 delegates from labour, government, regulator bodies, and the business community hear from experts on a variety of topics. 

“This event was relevant, refreshing, inspiring and educational,” said Joanne Hay, Unifor National Representative with the Health, Safety and Environment Department. “The breadth of topics covered will be so helpful to our union in supporting the diversity of our membership and will help us continue to build on the vital conversations around health, safety and our changing environment.”

Health, Safety and Environment activists from the Atlantic region heard from many speakers including Linda Nazareth on the redefined world of work, Dr. Julian Barling on building Brave New Workplaces using the seven factors necessary for healthy, safe and productive work, and Anne Tennier and Ariane Adam-Poupart on climate change’s impacts on work.

“I was inspired by how nearly all of the presenters touched on the impact of climate change on workers,” said Oliver Flecknell, member of Local 4504 at the University of New Brunswick. “We have been having conversations at our workplace on how to mitigate thermal stress on workers for a while so it’s nice to know these conversations and this research is happening on a national scale.”

Diversity and inclusion champion Dani Gomez-Ortega spoke about how we can champion trans and non-binary inclusive workplaces, and why this inclusion is necessary to have safe workplaces. 

Dani explained the many terms used to discuss gender, sex and orientation and offered a safe space to ask earnest questions. Her engaging presentation cleared up many misunderstandings about trans men and trans women and offered helpful tips on using preferred pronouns and creating an environment where trans people feel safe and welcomed. 

“I found the session on trans and non-binary inclusion very informative,” said Bram Avery, member of Local 4508 at Northumberland Ferries in Nova Scotia and PEI. “My biggest take-away, especially for folks of my generation, is that we don’t necessarily have to understand, but we do have to respect. I’ll be sharing that with everyone.”

Sheila Liston from WorkSafeNB outlined the organization’s novel SUCCEED program for traumatic psychological injuries (TPIs) and the impact the six-week program is having on those suffering from these injuries.

“It’s great to know we have organizations figuring out how to support workers’ mental health in many ways,” said Jason Landry, member of Unifor Local 401 at Bell Aliant in PEI. “That session, and learning about silicosis were the topics I’ll definitely be discussing with other members.”

The solutions-focused forum was expansive and, despite recognizing immense challenges ahead, remained hopeful and focused on the role all health, safety and environment activists can play in protecting every worker.

“The atmosphere was extremely uplifting, energetic and informative,” said Paula Sansome, member of Local 597 at Days Inn in Newfoundland and Labrador. “Issues in the workplace are definitely changing and these sessions and the tools they’ve offered us will help us build ‘Brave New Workplaces’ that meet all our needs.”

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