Helping newcomers understand workplace safety in B.C.

It’s now easier for staff at immigrant-serving organizations to share information about workplace health and safety in B.C. with new immigrants and refugees. 

Photo of roadside sign saying Welcome to British Columbia, in Mount Robson Provincial Park

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In 2016, the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC) opened the ISSofBC Welcome Centre in East Vancouver for newcomers, including immigrants and refugees. The centre is the first integrated service facility of its kind in the world, offering temporary housing and support services for newcomers.

The Centre’s support services include first-language settlement services, language training, preschool, employment services, primary health care, ATM and financial training, and a variety of community outreach initiatives. (See this CBC story that includes photos of the building and its rooms.)

Clients seeking support to find work also receive help understanding their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

While ISSofBC and other similar agencies have been incorporating health and safety information into their job-search workshops, there hasn’t been a common curriculum to work off of until this past summer. In June 2019, immigrant-serving organizations received material from WorkSafeBC for a pilot program aimed at providing newcomers with an overview of workplace health and safety in B.C.

WorkSafeBC’s Immigrant and Refugee Worker Program covers topics such as:

  • Roles and relationships between workers, employers, and government agencies
  • Rights and responsibilities of workers, supervisors, and employers
  • Industries and occupations in B.C. and common injuries that occur in these industries
  • Identifying hazards and implementing controls
  • Reporting a workplace incident, obtaining first aid, and filing a claim

Talking workplace safety, rights, and responsibilities

Recently I spoke with Jennifer York, division manager of ISSofBC’s Settlement Program, about what newcomers usually wanted to know about workplace health and safety.

“We have a diverse range of clients seeking different types of employment,” Jennifer says, adding that jobs here can be quite different from what participants had in their own countries. “They need to know their rights and responsibilities — including what to do if they observe something that’s not done safely.”

The program’s workbook includes activities that encourage participants to reflect on their past work experience as well as to work in groups to look at case studies. It also features several What’s wrong with this photo? images, which can help convey the information to people learning English as a new language.

“Because of how the program materials are designed, they can be used by any settlement workers or community outreach workers who think their clients would benefit from them,” says Jennifer. “We’ve had a lot of positive responses.”

For more information about workplace health and safety in B.C., see Create and manage a healthy and safe workplace on

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