“Safety habits start young, so it’s fantastic that we get the chance to start instilling safety consciousness at this point in the next generation of the workforce,” says Candice Brown, safety and injury management advisor with the BC Construction Safety Alliance.
Candice is talking about her recent visit with colleague Jeff Lyth to 15 students in the Heavy Equipment Operator Program at Yale Secondary School in Abbotsford. This is the fourth year BCCSA has presented for the students, offering a brief overview of the Historic Compromise, and the two basic components of the system that forms the basis for OHS as we know it: insurance and enforcement.
Candice says students usually have questions about their rights.
“They express fear about losing their jobs over refusing unsafe work. They want to know who they can talk to if their supervisor isn’t responsive to their concerns,” she says. “They want to know who is being held responsible, and how, if safety regulations aren’t followed. Generally, they just want to know how the system applies to them once they get out there in the field.”
The HEO program accepts 15 students from around School District 34 in the Abbotsford area and has been running for eight years. It includes the Industry Training Authority’s Road Builder and Heavy Construction Foundation program and the Heavy Equipment Technician Training. Course materials include units on the OHS Regulation, safety rights and responsibilities, and OFA Level 1 certification.
“Students respond positively to presentations by people from outside the school system. Often the issues raised through these presentations offer new perspectives and generate good discussions,” says Yale instructor Larry Colby. “BCCSA has supported our program through the donation of hardhats and high-vis vests for a few years now. This coupled with the presentation leaves our students with a lasting impression.”
Students attend Yale for six weeks of classroom instruction before going to a LaFarge gravel pit site for two weeks of “seat time” training on a fleet of machines loaned to the program by Parker Pacific, Larry explains. Those who complete the program are registered with the ITA as first-year apprentices and must find a job to gain experience and develop competencies on different types of machines. They can also use their work experience credits towards Grade 12 graduation.
Kudos to BCCSA for this important outreach and making sure youth know their rights in the workplace.