Laurier’s Joint Health and Safety Committees: A role for full-time faculty

This article is from the WLUFA Advocate February 2016 4.7.

Timothy Gawley, Health Studies

I am one of two full-time faculty members of the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) for the Brantford Campus. I have been on the committee since 2013. Laurier’s two JHSCs (there is second committee that serves the Kitchener/Waterloo campuses) are committed to making sure that Laurier is a safe place to work.

You may not be familiar with these committees. Admittedly, I was not familiar with them either until a wide call for Brantford campus volunteers was made a couple summers ago. Coincidentally, I was looking for something other than the usual academic management sort of University service and I thought this committee would give me an opportunity to see Laurier from a different perspective: as an institution concerned with risk and safety. I am very happy that I took this opportunity. It has been a great way to uniquely serve the University. I have learned much about our institution from the health and safety perspective. It has enabled me to interact with University staff, whose perspectives I always admire, and it has allowed me to have a tangible effect on workplace fairness and dignity.

Potential immediate- and longer-term injury hazards continually emerge for faculty and staff (e.g., slips, trips and falls; handling of chemicals, muscular-skeletal injuries associated with office work). JHSC members work diligently to identify and negate these hazards through regular workplace inspections, reports and improvement recommendations. Full-time faculty participation acknowledges that faculty are not immune to these vulnerabilities, and that faculty can make a difference in the health and safety of our campuses. Our JHSCs can really benefit from full-time faculty representation.

Representation on the JHSC can benefit not only full-time faculty, but also the wider Laurier community. Having full-time faculty representation can assure less secure colleagues of our community, such as university staff and contract academic faculty, that a full-time faculty member is speaking with, and perhaps for, them when situations arise. Full-time faculty membership ensures that institutional collegiality is extended to matters of health and safety. It shows that university faculty are concerned and want to advocate for the health and safety of everyone in our community.

If you are interested in a different sort of University service experience and are concerned about health and safety in our community, then consider membership on one of our campus JHSCs. Our JHSCs work within the duties and responsibilities defined in the Ontario Health and Safety Act, which specifies that workplace health and safety must be monitored by employees (as there is a potential conflict of interest if monitoring is left solely to the employer). If you have an interest in becoming a full-time faculty JHSC representative and want more information about its purpose, duties, and contacts, please visit Safety, Health, Environment & Risk Management’s (SHERM) webpage.

 

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