What do you say to someone who has led your organization through some of its most difficult challenges and helped it not only survive, but thrive? Thank you? The words hardly seem sufficient.
Following 19 years of service as Executive Director for the Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC), Dave Killham has decided to retire.
As a result of his leadership, Ontario workers, their representatives and employers in every sector and region of the province continued to benefit from quality, hazard-based, worker-oriented, health and safety training and information services.
Early on Dave also inspired the clear articulation and restatement of WHSC’s vision, mission and values – values that grounded every WHSC program developed and delivered.
In the face of flat-lined budgets and at times budget cuts, Dave helped ensure:
- the maintenance of critical frontline services;
- the modernization of WHSC operations, including the introduction of an effective web strategy, complete with e-commerce and a customer retention management system that underpins it;
- the dramatic improvement of the province’s Certification training standard for joint health and safety committees;
- a proven provincial training standard and WHSC program for Working at Heights; and
- expansion of WHSC training services to encompass a host of programs, including those dedicated to equipment operator health and safety training.
“Exemplary and inspiring” contributions
Dave also shepherded WHSC through the dramatic shift in legislative oversight for Ontario occupational health and safety prevention that began 10 years ago. Most recently, Dave helped ensure continuing and expanded services to workers and workplace representatives during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the introduction of innovative virtual classrooms for much-needed training and timely weekly webinars to ensure access to critical information on the deadly virus when it was most needed.
Of Dave’s many contributions, WHSC President, Wayne Samuelson observes, “I have been so proud to serve alongside Dave. He has been such a strong and determined advocate for WHSC and the principles upon which we were founded. We never know the lives that have been spared or improved by the work of WHSC. But I can say with certainty, with Dave’s direction, the work of WHSC has been exemplary and even inspiring. Quality and trusted occupational health and safety training and information matter. Dave Killham’s many contributions to our cause matter.”
Service to the labour movement
Before his tenure at WHSC, Dave served the Canadian labour movement in various capacities for over 40 years. Dave began his involvement in the labour movement as a member of the United Brewers Warehousing Workers Union, where he was an employee of the Brewers Retail, now known as “The Beer Store”. The bargaining unit there was UBWW Local 326 where Dave served as an executive officer, steward, health and safety advocate and benefit representative from his early years until he was hired by United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), Local 175.
UFCW Local 175 is a local union with a membership of over 60 thousand, spanning all of Ontario and employed mostly in food processing and retail food. At the Local, Dave coordinated political action, education and communications. During his tenure he also helped establish and direct their member training centre in Mississauga.
In 1990, Dave was appointed an International Representative for UFCW Canada, assigned to Atlantic Canada. Dave returned to Ontario in late 1993 where he rejoined UFCW Local 175. Six years later, Dave was appointed special assistant to the national director UFCW Canada, again responsible for political action, training and education, but this time across Canada. Dave left this position in 2001 and joined the staff of WHSC.
Worker education career’s “heart”
Dave first worked at WHSC as Director, Training Services, Toronto Region, where he was responsible for coordinating all WHSC training development, as well as training delivery efforts throughout Central Ontario. By 2002, Dave had secured the position of WHSC Executive Director.
Reflecting on his years at WHSC Dave observes, “Education and the power it has to help change workers’ lives for the better has been at the heart of my career. It has been a privilege to work with so many dedicated, talented and caring people at WHSC and throughout our movement for change. I will surely miss the day-to-day interaction and effort. But I know I leave WHSC in good hands. Our Board of Directors, leadership team, staff and instructors are all singularly focused on doing their part to help safeguard Ontario workers’ lives and well-being.”
Andrew Mudge, WHSC Assistant to the Executive Director – Administration will act as the organization’s Interim Executive Director. Search plans for a new Executive Director will be taken up shortly.
Meantime, Dave will enjoy his well-deserved retirement with family and friends, including his daughter, Alexandra, 31 and son, Fraser, 25.