Ontario’s safety associations merge

Co-operative model provides greater resources to more employers

“Together we’re better.” That’s the sentiment behind Ontario’s 12 health and safety associations coming together to form four new associations, said Candys Ballanger-Michaud, president and CEO of one of the new associations, Workplace Safety North.

Workplace Safety North, which serves businesses and industry in northern Ontario, is made up of Mines and Aggregates Safety and Health Association, Ontario Forestry Safe Workplace Association and Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association.

“We now have greater access to expertise with being collective versus being separate,” said Ballanger-Michaud.

For example, before the amalgamation in January 2010, the mining association didn’t have ergonomic supports and expertise, she said.

“Collectively, we’re able to leverage the expertise of the staff that had been with those legacy associations throughout the years,” said Ballanger-Michaud. “There will be greater access to services than (clients) had in the past.”

After nearly one year of consultations to determine a new structure to better deliver health and safety services, products and training to Ontario employers, the 12 associations proposed the amalgamations to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

The proposal was approved on Feb. 19, 2009, said Elizabeth Mills, president and CEO of Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, which is made up of Ontario Service Safety Alliance, Farm Safety Association and Industrial Accident Prevention Association.

“We all committed ourselves and our organizations to driving toward zero injuries, illness and fatalities in the workplace. If we were really going to continue to do the kind of work that we needed to do, we thought it was appropriate to examine how well we were structured to support that,” said Mills.

Part of that was creating a one-stop location for employers and employees looking for health and safety solutions, regardless of where they are located or what industry they work in, she said. At one point, there were more than 70 different websites, which was confusing for employers and employees, but now there is one portal, www.HealthAndSafetyOntario.ca, she said.

“The more that we co-operate, the better the client can actually tap into all of the resources that are available in the system and that allows us to focus on greater prevention outcomes,” said Mills.

One of the goals for Workplace Safety & Prevention Services is to leverage the resources of the legacy associations to reach out to smaller firms, which now make up 67 per cent of the association’s client base, said Mills.

That includes finding new ways to reach them in their own community and supporting them in new ways, through over-the-phone consulting, field resources or online coaching, she said.

Another goal of the amalgamations was to put more people on the front lines to better serve clients, said Sandra Wilson, program specialist at the Public Services Health & Safety Association, which is made up of the former Education Safety Association of Ontario, Municipal Health and Safety Association and Ontario Safety Association for Community Healthcare.

“By working together, we’ll have more resources on the front line. We’ll be able to provide our clients with more products and services and improve access in the north,” she said.

The fourth association, Infrastructure Health & Safety Association, is made up of the former Construction Safety Association of Ontario, Electrical & Utilities Safety Association and Transportation Health and Safety Association of Ontario.

The new associations will also examine products and services that were directed at one particular industry to determine if they can be of use in another industry, said Mills.

“We’re going to arm our clients with the knowledge they need to ensure workers go home safe at the end of every day,” said Ballanger-Michaud.

The four new associations will also continue to work closely with Ontario’s Ministry of Labour to ensure the products and services align with the ministry’s occupational health and safety objectives, she said.

“I’m a real proponent of that strong partnership that’s going to be needed to make sure we’ve got the services or products that are going to prepare workplaces to comply with what the ministry requirements are,” she said.

Health and Safety Ontario

The 4 new associations

Ontario’s prevention system is made up of the Ministry of Labour, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), Workers Health and Safety Centre, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers and 12 health and safety associations. Health and Safety Ontario is the result of an effort to reorganize the independent efforts of the 12 associations into four streamlined organizations. They are:

Infrastructure Health & Safety Association: Based in Mississauga, Ont., it covers construction, electrical and utilities, transportation, aggregates, natural gas and ready-mix concrete.

Public Services Health & Safety Association: Based in Toronto, it covers hospitals, nursing and retirement homes, residential and community care, universities and colleges, school boards, libraries and museums, municipalities, provincial government and agencies, police, fire, paramedics and First Nations.

Workplace Safety North: Based in North Bay, Ont., it covers mining, mine rescue, smelters and refineries, forestry, pulp and paper, printing and converting and northern Ontario business.

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services: Based in Mississauga, Ont., it covers agriculture, landscaping, manufacturing, service, hospitality, retail and wholesale trade.

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