Health and safety is an essential part of the important work that CUPE and CUPE locals and members do to ensure a safe and secure work and workplace environment for everyone. CUPE members face a wide range of hazards while on the job. Worker involvement is the real key to resolving health and safety problems because front line workers have a unique understanding of health and safety hazards in the workplace. CUPE provides tools, resources and training to help committee members and health and safety representatives help our members to stay healthy and safe at work and to encourage activism.
Occupational health and safety committee members and representatives play an important role within their local unions. They are advocates for healthy and safe work and can participate in recognizing, evaluating, and recommending controls to hazards found throughout the work and the workplace.
…it’s the work that needs to be safe… focus not only on the where, but also the who, the how, the when and the why.
As a CUPE member doing the important work of occupational health and safety, it’s important to remember occupational health and safety is about the occupation, not the place. When CUPE refers to health and safety, the consideration must be for all aspects of health and safety that relates to the work, not just of the workplace. Focusing on only the building or the place where the work is being done and making that safe. But keep in mind that it’s the work that needs to be safe, and focus not only on the where, but also the who, the how, the when and the why. Health and safety activists must be concerned with all the aspects of work, regardless of where that work is taking place. This includes the physical, mental and organizational aspects of the work.
Sometimes health and safety struggles can seem overwhelming. Just remember, you are not expected to be an expert or to have all the answers. You are expected to share the experience of workers working in your workplace – that’s your expertise and your strength. Workers are the experts in the work they do in their workplace – that’s an important point of view to have if the goal is to make work safer in the workplace. And, most of all, keep in mind that you are not alone. Your CUPE Local union, CUPE Division, CUPE National, and many other labour organizations and agencies can help.
Though this guide and accompanying kit focus on health and safety committees, much of the information provided will be applicable to smaller workplaces that have health and safety representatives.
The Health and Safety Committee Resource Kit provides additional information and materials you can refer to.