Workers Health & Safety Centre

Quality training key to new worker safety, say scholarship winners

Five Ontario students have been selected from among many worthy candidates to receive 2019 Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) post-secondary education scholarships. 
 
An important objective of this annual scholarship initiative is for students to take a closer look at the vulnerability of newly hired workers or those newly assigned to a different set of job tasks. Equally important, is for them to gain critical understanding of their right to be protected from safety and health hazards at work and the significant employer and supervisor obligations to ensure their protection.
 
“While many employers strive to meet these obligations, others choose to shift responsibility to workers especially in the case of young workers, by suggesting they are, by nature, risk takers,” says Dave Killham, WHSC executive director. “These myths and victim blaming tactics are hallmarks of antiquated and ineffective, behaviour-based safety systems.” 

Killham, and others, point to a considerable body of research demonstrating newness to the job, lack of experience, more hazardous work assignments and inadequate or no training are all responsible for higher rates of injury among new and young workers.
 
Applicants for the 19th annual WHSC Student Scholarship Contest were asked to write an essay exploring factors that give rise to new worker vulnerability and steps they would take as an employer to ensure their safety.
 
In addition to the essay requirement, scholarship candidates were invited to share their contributions to the quality of life in their school and community, both in their own words and in a letter of recommendation from a teacher, other educator or representative of a community organization. The combination of the two application elements (scores weighted ¾ for the essay and ¼ for co-curricular activities) determined three scholarships of $1,000 each, plus two top awards of $2,000 each. WHSC established one of the top scholarships in honour of Clifford Pilkey, WHSC’s founder and former president of the Ontario Federation of Labour and a second in honour of long-time WHSC board member, and social justice leader, Fred Upshaw.

Quality essays

“The blame, although often directed at the worker, falls on the employer,” explains Jamiel Nasser, scholarship recipient and graduate of Windsor’s W.F. Herman Academy—Secondary. He cites the dominant use of videos, a passive form of training, as inadequate to prepare workers for work.   
 
Scholarship recipient David Hewitt, a graduate of Belle River’s St. Anne Catholic High School, echoes Nasser’s views. He suggests employers provide workers with proper Health and Safety Awareness Training, introduce new workers to joint committee members so they know who to approach with health and safety concerns and assign competent supervisors to especially oversee new workers.
 
Diana Figliomeni, scholarship recipient and graduate of Lake Superior High School in Terrace Bay, believes fear leads many young and other new workers to perform work even when they don’t feel safe. As an employer she would create an environment where workers are confident they won’t face illegal reprisals for raising health and safety concerns or even refusing unsafe work.   

Community activism

Alexa Mognongraduate of Windsor’s Assumption College Catholic High School, receives the Clifford Pilkey memorial scholarship. Her essay exhibits a clear recognition of the importance of quality training and the need to engage workers in the prevention process. Equally impressive are her extensive advocacy efforts at school and in her community, including leadership of a program promoting inclusivity and relationship building for students with developmental disabilities, weekly piano recitals at a local retirement home and work in a soup kitchen.
 
The recipient of the other top award, the Fred Upshaw memorial scholarship is Jade Ritter. Ritter, a graduate of Centre Wellington District High School in Fergus, cites the importance of continuous learning as workplaces and potential hazards constantly evolve. Ritter’s volunteerism includes efforts to help grade nines transition to high school, fundraising for the school nutrition program and coordinating a campaign in her community to ensure children in need do not go without during the holiday season.        
  
“I applaud the many students who took the time to participate in this scholarship initiative and congratulate the five successful candidates,” says Killham. “I am so encouraged. This next generation has it in them to be agents for change, insisting on safer, healthier work and more just communities.”    
 
Please note: No portion of WHSC revenues or grants from the Ministry of Labour support student scholarships and bursaries. WHSC contributions to these important initiatives are financed solely through funds raised at the annual Clifford Pilkey Memorial Golf Fundraiser.
 
Please keep an eye out for details of the 2020 scholarship contest to be posted online and promoted through various WHSC media channels in early 2020.
 
Meet the 2019 WHSC Student Scholarship winners.
 
For more than 30 years, WHSC training has delivered hazard-based, prevention-focused training to workplaces in all sectors of the economy. Further, WHSC offers several information resources, including a number aimed at new and young workers.
 
To learn more
Call:   1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak with a training services representative
Visit:   www.whsc.on.ca
Email: contactus@whsc.on.ca