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Update for BC Parks OHS member reps - BCGEU


You're receiving this email as an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) member representative within BC Parks.

Thank you again for taking on the role of being a health and safety representative. Your work is critical to building safer and healthier BC Parks workplaces! As part of our commitment to support you in your role, we are writing to provide an update and some information based on questions and feedback we've received recently.

BC Parks Provincial OHS Committee Update

Your BC Parks Provincial OHS Committee has now been established, and met for the first time in March. The committee is finalizing its terms of reference, and Jen McGuinness (Senior Park Ranger, Powell River) will serve as your worker co-chair. Having both provincial and regional OHS committees is a unique structure that doesn't fit neatly into WorkSafeBC's usual requirements. So, the BCGEU is working with the employer to formalize this committee structure with WorkSafeBC. This will probably take a few months, but committees will continue to meet and do their work as usual.

Also, each regional committee should be identifying two worker representatives to join the provincial committee – your worker co-chair (or another rep you've elected), and an auxiliary worker representative. An auxiliary member may not be available to attend year round, but should be included wherever possible.

OHS Committee Appointments

Establishing new committees and appointing more than 70 BC Parks staff as worker OHS reps was a big undertaking this winter. Your BC Parks organizing committee conducted extensive outreach to BC Parks staff, and appointments were made by BCGEU local chairs with a focus on including frontline field staff and auxiliary members. By now, you should have received a letter from the BCGEU confirming your appointment as an OHS rep – please contact us if you haven't received a letter, if your letter is incorrect, or if you have questions.

Going forward, we need your help to keep these appointments up to date, and ensure vacancies are filled. If you are no longer able to serve on your committee, please let us know right away, and also tell us if there is someone that can take over for you.
You can contact your local BCGEU area office, or you can email [email protected]a.

Alternates

We've received lots of questions about alternates for OHS committees. Here's some information about alternates for you:

  • Alternates are meant to attend when others are not available – this supports the committee to meet quorum and continue meeting regularly (i.e., to be more effective).
  • Alternates are also required to participate in inspections and investigations if the usual worker representatives are not reasonably available (see section 46 of the Workers' Compensation Act).
  • Alternates are not strictly required by the Workers' Compensation Act or the collective agreement, so it's not critical that everyone has an alternate. A practical approach is for one or two alternates to be identified for a committee, rather than each person having their own alternate.
  • To ensure they're able to fully participate and not just be a "warm body," it's important for alternates to keep up on the activities of the committee. We suggest that they attend at least two or three meetings per year, and are included in the committee's communications (i.e., keep them on the email list!)
  • Alternates should attend JOHS committee training so they are able to fully participate and be effective in their role. This is not technically required by the Act or the collective agreement, but the employer has indicated to us they are supportive of having trained alternates.
  • Having BCGEU appointments for alternates is useful – it gets them into our system, so they can receive messages, information, etc. and we can contact them if needed. So, the names of alternates should be forwarded to your local BCGEU area office or [email protected].

Workload and being an OHS rep

We know that BC Parks staff have busy, demanding jobs, and we've heard concerns about the added workload and stress related to your participation on a JOHS committee.

First, it is important to know that serving on a JOHS committee is not volunteer time over and above your regular job. Rather, it is paid work and an important part of your job duties – this is clearly established in the Workers' Compensation Act (section 40) and our collective agreement (Article 22.3). As such, you should discuss with your supervisor how the time to attend meetings, prepare for meetings, and participate in inspections and investigations will be incorporated into your work schedule, not simply added on. The BCGEU has discussed this issue with the employer, emphasizing that staff and their supervisors need to prioritize JOHS committee work, and ensure it is accommodated within their work assignments. 

Second, be reassured that the role of JOHS committees is to discuss health and safety issues, provide feedback and make recommendations to the employer. Committees are not responsible to "do" health and safety work, like writing procedures or developing training. You may be assigned these tasks as part of your usual job duties, but this kind of work is not part of your role as a committee member.

Finally, workload is a health and safety issue that you can discuss with your committee and make recommendations to the employer. Excessive workload can lead to work-related stress, which in turn can lead to an increased risk of injury at work, or physical and/or mental ill health. The BCGEU OHS department can provide additional support to JOHS committees that want to discuss workload or other sources of work-related stress.

BC Parks OHS Reps meeting – coming soon!

At our initial meeting in February, we committed to organizing another get-together of BC Parks OHS reps. We plan to schedule the next meeting before the end of June, and we'd like to make it as useful and relevant to you as possible. Please forward any agenda items or topics you would like information about to Megan Scott, BCGEU OHS Officer, at [email protected].

Thanks again and we look forward to connecting with you soon!

In solidarity,

Rob Davis, Component 20 Vice President
Maria Middlemiss, Component 12 Vice President
Megan Scott, BCGEU OHS Officer



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