Welcome to the Health and Safety Blog

I would like to welcome you to a new dimension for the Health and Safety office of the Greater Victoria Teachers' Association. Here you will find messages, advice, links and other gadgets related to health and safety, as well as our teaching profession.

Friday, December 18, 2015

One More Form!

The latest Health and Safety bulletin just came out from the District Health and Safety office. It contained a good poster on First Aid. One thing missing due to space limitations was to fill out a Form 6a. 

I know in the heat of the incident it is the last thing you want to do. Time with your class is precious and the incident or injury seems minor. Yet completing a Form 6a is important. I wont regal you with a series of stories of people who ignored this step and then WCB refused to honour a later claim. Nor will I recount the little injuries that became big problems later on for employees. Suffice it to say, completing the form, even if you never have another issue stemming from the problem, is like an insurance policy. It establishes when the injury occurred. If you require time off, instead of using your sick time, it will be classified as WCB time and they pay for your absence. If rehabilitation or physiotherapy is required, WCB will pay for it.

Some members have encountered resistance or obstacles put in their face by WorkSafe claim adjusters. Unfortunately this has happened as WorkSafe is not always as supportive as it should be. If you have a claim denied or getting held up by WorkSafe please contact Diane Irvine at the BCTF office. Her contact info is dirvine@bctf.ca or call toll free 1-800-663-9163 and ask for Diane.

Filling out Form 6a also provides the District Occupational Health and Safety Committee with the ability to track trends of incidents / injuries that happen to the various employee groups. This review allows us the opportunity to target certain issues or investigate a particular worksite to create prevention strategies. One reason I am writing this post is due to the number of injuries sustained but no form 6a was completed. In some cases the injury was significant but no further medical assistance was sought out. 

Perhaps we teachers are a stoic bunch or we have a habit of putting the needs of others before our own. I implore you to not put off filing out the Form 6a. It might save your life!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Violence, Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

Violence in the workplace can be a frightening experience for workers. We know that working with people, there is always a possibility of encountering violence, bullying or harassment. People are unpredictable. With adults, we expect mature behaviour but children are less sophisticated. Nevertheless, it is not the expectation that it is part of your employment. The Worker Compensation Act and WorkSafe BC were created to ensure that BC workers work in safe and healthy environments. As the BC Federation of Labour reminds us, "Violence is NOT part of your job."

If you have been humiliated, sworn at, spat on or hit at work, you have experienced workplace violence. Constant exposure to workplace violence, even the seemingly small stuff like the passing comments of parents, "the other teacher does it differently," for example, can wear you down over time. Constant exposure can have repercussions on your physical and mental health, as well as, your job satisfaction. Because of the implications for the employer, such as increased sick time and lower productivity, they have an investment in reducing and eliminating workplace violence.

Our District has now put into place several policies and programs to this end. Policy 4304, 4300.1, and 5131 and their accompanying Regulations clearly state the employer's commitment to staff safety. The Violence Prevention Protocol and new WCB Bullying and Harassment policy add teeth to any worker claim of violence, bullying or harassment. We have Collective Agreement language that set out the process for dealing with workplace harassment or sexual harassment. It is no longer tolerable for any worker to experience these actions anymore. Parents cannot shout, berate or intimidate us any longer. It is unacceptable. We do not have to accept threats, fouls language or physical violence from students regardless of age.

These concerns are relative to the worker. If the staff member felt threatened, intimidated or abused, then our processes can kick in. WorkSafe BC defines violence as, 

"the attempted or actual exercise, other than a worker, of any physical force sa as to cause injury to a worker, and includes any threatening statement or behaviour which gives a worker reasonable cause to believe that he or she is at risk of injury."
If it is worker to worker violence, another process comes into play. The bullying and harassment policy from WorkSafe defines it as the following,
"includes any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated...
    The definition is broader and includes the actions of colleagues, students, parents and administrators. Being directed or disciplined by an administrator is not harassment, unless it is done in an intimidating or humiliating manner.

 In our office, we do receive complaints of violence from students, but also threatening or intimidating behaviour by administrators, inappropriate remarks made by co-workers and strong-arm behaviour by parents. It is the vindictive email, the negative discussion of a teacher at a PAC meeting, unwanted innuendos by a co-worker or the "guys only" table in a staffroom.

    The most egregious complaints, believe it or not, are about the few principals who will humiliate teachers in staff meetings to suppress dissent, the placing of baby bottles in teacher mailboxes for those that complain, administrators who use homophobic remarks, comments about absences, paternalistic attitudes or gossip about a teacher to his/her co-workers to bring someone in line. It is about power: creating authoritarian or abusive environments to manage schools or to gain something from another person. It has to stop.

It is time to change this culture in our schools. We have the commitment from the Board of Education. We have a commitment from the new Superintendent to create a more respectful and collaborative atmosphere. We have the processes and protocols to deal with these behaviours and attitudes. Let's use them for our benefit. We have the right to a safe and healthy work environment. A safe workplace is everybody's responsibility, let's make it happen.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Welcome back to a new school year

A new school year and time to assure and assert your Health and Safety rights. First things first, however, does your school have an active health and safety committee? The committee should have fifty per cent representation from the employee groups of your school. This committee is a legislated requirement and therefore at least one GVTA member needs to be on the committee.

I don't wish to nag but it is important that we have representation on the committee. It is helpful if the name of the GVTA member on the JOHS committee is forwarded to the GVTA office. Carolina can then add it to the database. The health and safety email list is used to send pertinent information out to committee members.

In the coming month, the union will send out a report on the survey we asked teachers to fill out in June. There is some interesting information stemming from that survey already. While teachers are experiencing more violent behaviour, the number of Form 1 documents (Worker Statement of Incident) completed is considerably less. The need for more education for administrators and teachers is very evident.

The area of "violence in the workplace" will continue to be a major focus for me this year. The new regulations and policies on Bullying and Harassment are also a primary concern. There are clearer and more defined rules to protect workers and the education sector is quickly catching up. We are not trying to label students hazards, but you are entitled to a violence free workplace.

At an upcoming SURT (school union rep training) session, of which H&S reps will be invited, we will run a session on the Violence Prevention Protocol and Bullying and Harassment Policy. We will dissect the forms and processes to make the system less complicated or frightening.

Stay Safe

David Futter