Staff representatives encourage communication
Lisa Bailey

Members of posAbilities occupational safety and health committee (OSH) present valuable perspectives in their work.

Human resources (HR) assistant and OSH committee administrator Sarina Ram says members include an HR director, team manager, team leader and union representatives for staff and support workers.

Each of them fulfils a different role in a different environment with different challenges that are important to consider in meeting the goal of creating and maintaining a high level of safety awareness to prevent injuries and lost-time incidents.

“A residential care worker is in a different situation than a life skills worker who has a one-on-one, individual role,” Sarina says.

“We value multiple perspectives on the committee,” she says, describing them as elemental in the committee’s discussions.

“Every program is a little different so it’s important to engage them.”

Leslie Fusco is a senior support worker who joined the committee about five years ago to learn more about working safely and boost involvement amongst her team members.

“It’s everyone’s job to make sure that their site is safe and I just want to be able to bring that to my workplace and model that,” she says.

Leslie says that having OSH committee members who also work in the field facilitates communication.

“I think it’s easier for people to come to you and ask you questions,” she says, noting this frequently happens with her. Even staff members from other programs approach her.

Roddy MacDonald, a residential staff member with about two years on the committee, says the diverse perspectives help to ensure constant feedback and understanding the connection between the reason and need for regulations and the workplace reality.

As the committee delves into regulations and looks at incidents, Roddy says workplace health and safety has been elevated to a new level.

“For me, it took it from the back of my mind to something that you take with you into a space.”

Roddy, Leslie and Sarina all note that safety is an ongoing and proactive practice, with a unique element presented in an organization like posAbilities.

“In our sector there are behaviours involved so it’s important to have a forum to share information and ideas,” Sarina says, adding it’s an important step in creating protocols and procedures for assisting individuals and doing things in the community.

Roddy notes that staff are supporting new clients and there are casual workers and new team members, in addition to peers, who stand to benefit when safety issues are brought forward.

He and Leslie commend a number of committee initiatives to engage staff.

Leslie also says the BC Government and Service Employees Union provides relevant training to OSH committee members.

She, Roddy and Sarina encourage staff to bring forward questions and concerns as health and safety contributes to overall well-being.

“I would like people to know that we’re available any time for questions or if they have any concerns or want to know what we do,” Leslie says, noting contact information is posted with all programs.

“We’re always available either through e-mail or a phone call. We’re here for the employees,” she says.

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