“LIUNA members are active in many construction safety and health committees in Canada,” says Canadian Tri-Fund Director Cosmo Mannella, “and our experience shows that the committees are they are a valuable asset to labour and management alike. Regular committee inspections ensure that most hazards are identified and corrected before injuries occur. An active committee demonstrates a commitment to safety on the part of management and encourages broad support and participation by the workforce.”
By law, if a project will last three months or longer and employ at least 20 workers on a regular basis, a committee is required. An equal number of labour and management members is required, and one of each must be certified. Each committee inspects its workplace at least once a month. It also investigates critical incidents that result in serious injuries or deaths. Employers are required to respond to written assessments of the committees within 21 days.
According to Mannella, the Tri-Fund often gets involved with safety committees in the very early stages of a major new project. “Because part of our job is tracking emerging projects so our signatories can bid on them, we’re involved from the very beginning when those bids are won. It’s a natural part of our job, then, to make sure that the contractors, local unions, regional offices and district councils do everything they have to do to get the project off the ground in the right way. Establishing the safety committee is one aspect of that effort.”
It is common for the Tri-Fund to provide support to a committee around a specific safety issue. For instance, the Tri-Fund is currently helping to create a safety program for a railroad maintenance operation in the Toronto area. And when specialty training is needed, the Tri-Fund taps LIUNA resources to focus on the concern.
For some years, the Canadian Tri-Fund has been on the cutting edge of “distance learning,” the development and use of online programs to train Laborers. “We’re in the final edit now of our first online health and safety course,” says Mannella. “Level I Health and Safety will allow Canadian Labourers to acquire basic safety orientation and skills training on their own time, from the convenience of their own homes.”