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New health and safety tools for small businesses
2016 Safety Act can be complex to navigate, WSCC available to help

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services
Monday, October 2, 2017

The Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) wants small businesses to know they have safety obligations to their employees, and launched a new publicity campaign at the Nunavut Trade Show in September.

"What we're finding, and what are stakeholder are saying to us, is that they need more information on how to go about managing occupational health and safety," said WSCC occupational health and safety specialist Meta Antolin.

The new Safety Act came into effect in Nunavut March 2016, and affects all non-mining businesses.

"What our stakeholders did tell is they don't know what is required of them," said Antolin.

In response, the commission has created several tools to help small business owners, whose businesses employ up to 19 people.

Neither the Department of Economic Development nor the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics was able to say how many small businesses are operating in the territory. Mayor Madeleine Redfern stated this year that the city has approximately 300 licensed businesses employing approximately 1,000 workers.

Antolin said there are essentials to keep in mind.

"Every employer has to provide a safe workplace. That means (they) have to ensure (they) have identified and controlled any hazards," she said.

A new program guide leads a small business owner through each step. The commission has also created a downloadable application for use independent of the internet, which outlines safety information and resources. Workshops are also available. Materials are being translated into Inuktut.

The Nunavut Brewing Co., set to open in Iqaluit sometime this fall, took advantage of the workshop opportunity while Antolin was in Iqaluit.

"I walked into the WSCC office on my third day here trying to set up a safety plan," said Katie Barbour, the brewery's new manager who has been in the city for seven weeks, adding WSCC staff told her about an upcoming safety course.

"I felt empowered and I knew exactly what they needed when I left. I also felt I had the tools, instead of starting from scratch. I knew exactly what they would look for and what I needed to look for."

Antolin said she expects participants to walk out of a workshop with a safety policy for their business.

"We have done sessions in the Northwest Territories which were industry specific, where I would go into a community, I host a luncheon. Everybody from that industry asked, 'Can we do this together?' and that was the perfect scenario," she said.

"We discussed that at the trade show here, with all the different industries and all the different people we were networking with. That was my purpose for being here, to introduce this here. This is bringing it in to Nunavut."

Antolin was also set to take her message to the Kivalliq Trade Show.

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