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WorkplaceNL greenlights $1.5M for new safety initiative

Details of $1.5-million in funding to create a manufacturing and processing sector council in the province were unveiled in St. John’s Tuesday. Here WorkplaceNL CEO Denis Hogan speaks to reporter as David Haire, vice-president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters – Newfoundland and Labrador Division, looks on.
Details of $1.5-million in funding to create a manufacturing and processing sector council in the province were unveiled in St. John’s Tuesday. Here WorkplaceNL CEO Denis Hogan speaks to reporter as David Haire, vice-president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters – Newfoundland and Labrador Division, looks on. - Joe Gibbons

Safety sector council approved for manufacturing, processes industries in Newfoundland and Labrador

With workplace injuries costing this province millions of dollars every year, a manufacturing and processing safety sector council has been given the go-ahead.

WorkplaceNL has approved $1.5 million, over five years, for the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters NL Division (CME NL) to create the council to promote safe working environments in high-risk industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The program will focus on preventing work-related injury and illness with the aim of helping return workers home safely at the end of their shift and lower employers’ assessments for workplace injury coverage.

At 3.1 per 100 workers, the manufacturing sector had the highest lost-time incident rate due to workplace injury or illness of any sector in the province in 2018.

At 2.2 per 100 workers, the fish processing sector was also higher than the provincial rate of 1.6.

Together, these sectors had workplace injury claims that cost $13.4 million in 2018 and $53.7 million in the past five years.

The funding proposal brings together employer and labour representatives in the industry to jointly oversee the council, and includes a sub-committee for fish processing.

“We are always focused on worker safety in an effort to help ensure individuals return home safely to their families and loved ones each day,” said Sherry Gambin-Walsh, minister responsible for WorkplaceNL.

WorkplaceNL CEO Dennis Hogan said the new program will “positively influence healtha dn safety cultures, as well as attitudes on early and safe return-to-work practices in manufacturing and processing facilities throughout our province.

“These industry experts can best facilitate training and programs to address hazards specific to their workplaces.”

David Haire, CME NL vice-president, added that his group is anticipating a good experience working with other groups to plan, develop, implement and maintain safety systems, including training, coaching, guiding and mentoring that will reduce workplace injuries and improve health and safety for the sector.

“CME NL is also looking forward to working with the other NL Safety Councils to share best practices and lessons learned from their sectors,” Hair said.

Mary Shortall, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, said with more than 8,000 workers engaged in the industry, “there is a real need to build a strong safety culture and to better prevent serious injuries and occupational illness in both manufacturing and fish processing. We are fully committed and ready to help with this work.”

Employers’ Council executive director Richard Alexander said the Employers’ council, CME, the Association of Seafood Producers and other employer representatives have been committed to establishing a manufacturing and processing safety sector council for many years.

“We are incredibly excited to see this initiative get off the ground,” he said.

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