New Trainers Lower Workplace Risks for Newcomer Workers

By Evan Comstock, social work student at OHC

OHC’s Cross Cultural Community Train the Trainer program has graduated 11 new Community Trainers who are now ready to go out into their respective communities and hold their own workshops with lessons about Manitoba’s workplace health and safety rights and compensation systems.

Manitoba welcomes newcomer workers with different cultural backgrounds each year and the Cross Cultural Community Development Program is focused on providing them with lessons in workplace health and safety. The goal is to have information available to workers, regardless of their time in Canada, language, or culture. To accomplish this, established community members complete a training program to learn how to facilitate health and safety workshops for newcomer workers.
Firstly, over 12 weeks in a classroom setting, a group of trainers is led through an intense 25-hour program. Each week the trainers meet with the program coordinators, Geetha Jayasinghe and Karen Hamilton, to discover information and discuss important workplace health and safety related issues. Topics include safety representatives and committees, community organizing and protecting workers from illnesses such as COVID.

The trainer’s evening courses invite guest speakers that allow for deeper learning about workplace issues. For example, local activist Louis Ifill led a discussion about racism in the workplace that helped participants to understand and identify racism and its impacts on workers. Another guest, in-house ergonomics specialist Andrew Dolhy empowered participants with practical lessons that will provide life-long health benefits.

Finally, with the support of OHC, the cross-cultural trainers organize learning sessions for their respective community groups. The sessions are delivered, and printed materials are distributed in the community’s own language to enhance comfort levels and facilitate better understanding.

There are many structural inequalities that lead to newcomers working in jobs with difficult conditions such as long hours and repetitive tasks. Often newcomers are forced to accept jobs that don’t match previous education and experience and only offer low income. These conditions become risks for newcomers for both physical and mental workplace injuries. Furthermore, newcomers are less likely to report or receive compensation when they are injured at work.

For over 20 years the Train the Trainer program has adapted to the different needs of newcomer workers as they arise, while ensuring information is available to them in their own language. When barriers to information are removed, workers become empowered with knowledge and risks of a workplace injury are reduced. With the work of the new community trainers, many more newcomer workers will understand their rights and the services available to them in Manitoba.