OHS inspectors protest ‘potential’ privatization of health and safety enforcement

OPSEU concerned Ontario government may look at privatization during review

Occupational health and safety inspectors working for the Ministry of Labour, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), are planning a demonstration on Thursday to protest the potential privatization of health and safety enforcement in Ontario.

OPSEU president Warren Thomas said the province may be considering the privatization of OHS enforcement or making it the responsibility of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Either plan would have a detrimental effect on workplace safety, he said.

"Safety enforcement must be kept with public inspectors in the Ministry of Labour, a directly-run government body," Thomas said. "The Sunrise Propane explosion in 2008 is a prime example of what happens when safety standards are enforced by a private agency like the Technical Standards and Safety Authority."

The union is concerned that the expert panel appointed to review the province’s workplace safety system and recommend improvements doesn’t have any front-line health and safety enforcement staff on the panel or any of its working groups.

Len Elliot, an OHS inspector and president of OPSEU Local 101, said that an expert panel without actual front-line experts is an exercise in futility.

"We investigate the day-to-day incidents that cost 478 Ontario workers their lives last year," Elliott said. "If the Minister really wants improvements to workplace health and safety in this province, there are over a thousand of our members ready to tell him how to accomplish it."

The demonstration is scheduled to take place at the Ministry of Labour’s office in London, Ont., at noon.

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