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Health and safety training tool kit for immigrants


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A few years ago, the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) decided to look for health and safety resources for recent immigrants. When it didn’t have much luck, the institute took the initiative to develop its own comprehensive tool kit. While the package is designed for immigrant settlement agencies to use in their orientation programs, organizations that employ immigrants should find it contains much valuable information that they can use in their own training efforts. Moreover, while the package is based on employment law in Ontario, the concepts apply across the country.

Researching the health and safety of immigrant workers in Canada, the IWH discovered that recent immigrants (mainly men) are far more likely than other workers to experience injuries. I wrote about the results when the institute presented its research to Statistics Canada’s Socio-economic Conference in 2008 (subscription to required). That study and another concluded in 2011 describe these labour market conditions that immigrants face:

  • Immigrants and members of visible minorities are less often unionized than native-born Canadians
  • If their educational qualifications are not recognized, immigrants may be forced to take on physically demanding and unskilled jobs, exposing them to workplace hazards and increasing the risk of injury
  • According to various studies, “recent immigrants place a large importance on having any job, in part due to the financial strain associated with resettlement”; thus they may be more likely to accept a high-risk job and less likely to question unsafe work practices or to demand training
  • Some research has indicated that immigrants receive less general work training than native-born Canadians
  • Limited command of English or French may prevent some immigrants from fully understanding health and safety training and rules
  • 90 percent of immigrant workplace injuries required medical attention, compared to 65 percent for other workers
  • Newcomers to Ontario are more likely than Canadian-born workers to be employed in jobs with a higher number of workplace health and safety hazards
  • Recent immigrants may be at higher risk of work injuries and less likely to access compensation after injury
  • Newcomers face obstacles in accessing information about occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation systems; indeed, there are clear gaps in the availability and delivery of this information

The result of the institute’s research is Prevention is the Best Medicine, the first comprehensive guide and lesson plan on occupational health and safety law and regulation and workers’ compensation, aimed specifically at recent immigrants in Ontario. The kit includes the following resources:

  • A fact sheet for learners
  • A guide for workshop leaders, with a sample lesson plan for delivering the information in the fact sheet, including classroom-based exercises
  • A presentation slide deck for workshop leaders to deliver an in-depth session that goes beyond (but still complements) the information in the fact sheet, including additional case studies, scenarios and exercises
  • Speaking notes to accompany the slides for workshop leaders
  • A vocabulary list for learners, including definitions of words particular to occupational health and safety that learners may not be familiar with
  • An advice sheet for workshop leaders to help them address difficult questions that may arise while teaching these topics

Businesses in Ontario can hope that settlement services will implement the institute’s tool kit, but employers don’t need to wait. The basics of occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation law are all right here. Of course, this training package won’t fulfil your general obligation to train workers on the practices and associated risks at your specific workplace, but it can help build a strong foundation for workplace training.

The tool kit discusses:

  • Who is covered by Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • The duties of employers, supervisors and workers under the Act
  • Employees’ legal rights under the Act
  • Violence and harassment in the workplace
  • How the workers’ compensation system works
  • Injury at work
  • What employees must do if they are injured or sick at work

The two thorough slide presentations (health and safety and workers’ comp) could probably each be completed in an hour or less, and can also make a handy reference for employees and management.

Find the Prevention is the Best Medicine tool kit here.

Adam Gorley
Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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Adam Gorley

Adam Gorley is a copywriter, editor and researcher at First Reference. He contributes regularly to First Reference Talks, Inside Internal Controls and other First Reference publications. He writes about general HR issues, accessibility, privacy, technology in the workplace, accommodation, violence and harassment, internal controls and more. Read more
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