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Five hundred health and safety activists came together in Ottawa this past weekend to talk about the issues they face in the workplace, and what they can do to address them in their workplaces and in their communities, at CUPE’s 11th National Health and Safety Conference.

For about half the participants, it was their first time taking part in a national health and safety event.

Conference organizers hoped to inspire new delegates to take action, and instill a renewed sense of vigour for experienced participants.

For two and a half days, members learned about big picture political, legal, and social issues during plenary sessions, then broke out into smaller workshops where they tackled challenges they face in their workplaces and in their communities.

Conference workshops covered four major topics: inspiring activism; environmental health and workplace action; hazards women face in the workplace; and mental health. Workshops members participated in were infused with practical problem-solving and attainable goal-setting practices.

It was also the first time both environmental and mental health issues have been front and centre at a national health and safety conference.

CUPE activists also highlighted a number of firsts in the Celebrating our Successes plenary, covering many of the health and safety accomplishments CUPE has been a part of over the past 50 years.

CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury noted several of the firsts in his closing remarks.

We heard yesterday that CUPE was the first union in Canada to establish a day of mourning for workers killed and injured on the job. We heard that local 519 in Yorkton, Saskatchewan was the first to establish a violence policy,” said Fleury.

And this conference is the first where 200 health and safety activists participated in a workshop on environmental health and workplace action. I sincerely hope it will not be the last.”

Fleury also announced the launch of new radio ads sponsored by CUPE to help fight cyber-bullying, which will be broadcast in major cities across Canada beginning October 15.

Participants now return their home provinces, where they will put what they’ve learned into action.

CUPE’s next major national event, a bargaining conference also being held in Ottawa, takes place February 5 to 8. Watch CUPE.ca for more details.