Next steps being taken to find Research Chair
Thanks to the United Steelworkers union, Laurentian University now has another $50,000 for its new Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety.
The announcement comes on the heels of a $1-million contribution to the position from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and a $125,000 contribution from Vale back in December.
Now that the funds are in place, Laurentian is in the process of recruiting the person to fill the position, which is under the auspices of the university's Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH).
“We hope that the chair will, in fact, be in place by the time of the start of the next academic year,” said Tom Zsolnay, the university's director of university advancement at a Feb. 7 press conference at the Steelworkers Hall.
He said the university has a long history of innovation when it comes to occupational health and safety.
“Laurentian is proud to maintain the lead role in occupational health and safety research and equally proud of receiving the support of like-minded organizations such as the USW.”
Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard donated the funds to the research chair position on behalf of Steelworkers Local 6500.
He did so to honour the union local for their historic and ongoing role in improving occupational health and safety.
“I want this contribution to be on behalf of Local 6500 for the great work they've done over 50 years,” he said.
Gerard said he had many conversations about advancing occupational health and safety research with former Vale executive Mark Cutifani. While Cutifani has since left the company, the Steelworkers never let go of the idea, he said.
“We worked through the labour dispute and kept it alive,” said Gerard, who is the chair of CROSH's advisory committee.
It is unfortunately still the case that people die at work, and from work, whether they are under the ground, or in a cubicle.
CROSH's associate director
“I talked with (Sudbury MPP and Minister of Northern Development and Mines) Rick Bartolucci. To his credit, he kept it alive. Now that we've got enough funding to have the chair, we've got to do additional research.”
Gerard said he'd like to see CROSH, which was founded in 2008, conduct research on the connection between workplace fatalities or injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.
He said preliminary research done by his union on the topic has shown there's a greater prevalence of the condition in these workers than there is in soldiers or police officers.
But the union doesn't have the capacity to do full-scale, academic research, so research institutes like CROSH are needed, Gerard said.
CROSH's associate director, Michel Larivière, said much is owed to labour groups such as the Steelworkers for their “long, long history” of raising awareness of occupational health and safety issues.
He praised Gerard for his work on CROSH's advisory board.
“Leo, I want to thank you in particular for all your leadership as chair of our advisory board, and all the work you've done to help others in the community see the benefits of a research chair,” Larivière said.
“Many others are now coming to the table with investments because of your efforts, including a recent contribution of $1 million from the NOHFC.”
When the new research chair is in place, he or she will be responsible for directing CROSH's research agenda and attracting new funding, Larivière said.
CROSH already does many different types of research, including projects examining sleep among shift workers, the reproductive health of underground workers, mental stress among workers, and the effects of airborne chemicals in the workplace.
“Most important, projects are driven by our desire to find actual solutions to real-life workplace issues,” Larivière said. “Our work is not meant to collect dust on university bookshelves.”
Underpinning all of CROSH's work is the idea that every worker should get home safe and healthy every day, he said.
“It is unfortunately still the case that people die at work, and from work, whether they are under the ground, or in a cubicle.”