By Shannon Carranco, Communications Staff
Workers’ health and safety is a growing concern for AUPE members and all Albertans. Last year 178 people died in the province from workplace injuries or illnesses, according to the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). But that number is likely 12 to 13 times higher because workplace injuries and deaths are only recorded by WCB if a claim is accepted.
The pandemic has had a major impact on workplace safety. Alberta’s WCB accepted 12,588 claims from workers who tested positive and caught COVID-19 while at work in 2021. This is an extremely worrying fact for AUPE’s 95,000 members, who are more likely to be injured in the workplace than workers in other industries and sectors.
“A staggering amount of workplace injuries and deaths in Alberta are avoidable, especially with the right knowledge and education. Occupational Health and Safety courses are an excellent way to combat workplace injury," says AUPE vice-president Bonnie Gostola.
Workplace safety starts with training and education. Thankfully, the University of Alberta is offering a comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety certificate—one of the most advanced of its kind in the country—made up of eight core courses, one elective, and 42 hours of enrichment seminars.
"Occupational Health and Safety courses are an excellent way to combat workplace injury."
AUPE members are eligible for part-time and full-time bursaries through the union, which may be used towards this OH&S certificate program. If you are a part-time student, you must have been an AUPE member for at least one year to apply. Full-time students must have been an AUPE member for at least two years. If you are an AUPE member who has been laid off, you can still apply, but only if you enroll within 12 months of being laid off. Finally, regardless of your status, you must be taking at least one accredited course that can be used towards a degree to apply.
The OHS certificate honours prior industry training through a transfer credit option, which means members who have successfully completed the AUPE OHS Advocacy Program within the past five years will have much fewer required seminar hours in the program, allowing them to obtain their certificate significantly faster.
"The University of Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety certificate is a great way for AUPE members to get their foot in the door on OHS training and make their workplaces safer," says AUPE vice-president Bonnie Gostola.
It's a flexible program designed for part-time study and can either be done online or in person at the University of Alberta’s downtown campus. Students usually finish the program within one or two years but can take up to six years. Students only need a high school diploma and two years of work experience to be eligible to apply.
The eight core courses include in-depth material on health and safety law, risk management and communications, psychological health and safety, as well as safety hazard recognition, evaluation and control. And if you’re only interested in taking one course, you can register for it without being enrolled in the program.
According to the University, students who have completed the certificate have worked in a wide range of industries, including “oil and gas, aviation, construction, education, health care, manufacturing, municipalities, mining, forestry, government agencies, and private businesses.” Students are also eligible for a range of bursaries and grants, including the Canada-Alberta job grant, where the government will pay for two-thirds or $10,000 of an employee's training costs.
AUPE members who are excited about this opportunity can check out the University of Alberta’s OHS certificate website for more details.