A few weeks ago in this space, I introduced to Federation members a new initiative to support BC’s community social services sector—a health and safety council. Many other sectors and industries have long had such health and safety bodies (e.g., hospitality, home care, forestry). Now, after many years of advocacy work, we have created a similar council that can address and the unique needs and conditions of our sector.
The council will provide support to all employers (union & non-unionized) which are registered within the Counselling or Social Services (CU#766007), Life and Job Skills Training (CU#766010), and Residential Social Services Facility (CU#766017) classification units and will work to:
- Promote positive, proactive relations between unions, WorkSafeBC, and the sector
- Foster healthy workplaces
- Improve injury prevention efforts
- Minimize the impact of illness and injury in the workplace
- Reduce the associated costs of the above items things
This initiative builds on years of work undertaken by The Federation, CSSEA, and WorkSafeBC as part of a pilot project designed to lower claims rates for community social service employers. (The pilot project successfully reduced claims and, as a result, our sector saw a decrease in WorkSafeBC rates last year.)
A healthier, safer social services sector
As some of you may recall, for the past couple of years our presentations to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services included specific talking points about the rates of workplace violence in our sector. We have made clear the fact that this is a complex issue that requires complex solutions.
Such incidents result from a perfect storm of overlapping factors—the extreme needs of individuals seeking services, the desperation that results from going days or weeks or months waiting for vital services or support, staff who are under-supported or unprepared for the kinds of work they are required to do.
Our goal is for this health and safety council to help to shine a light on some of these underlying issues and help organizations to develop intentional strategies to address them. Doing so will not only help make our places of work healthier and safer, but I believe the work of this council (in addition to our involvement in the CSS Roundtable and our Labour Market Research Project) will also improve recruitment and retention across the sector.
Help us help the sector
You may have already received communication from CSSEA asking for your support of this initiative (which will be funded through a levy on your classification units). We encourage you to send in the requested letter of support. The deadline to send in the letters of support is August 16th.
The health and safety council will be a very good thing for our sector. It will have representatives from community sector organizations, the unions, and from the government and it will work to promote collaboration, help to improve service delivery and work to make our entire sector stronger and more sustainable.