Occupational health centre dumped

Year Published:  1989
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX3668

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) is to lose all of its federal funding by April 1991, the Progressive Conservative government has announced. The federal Minister of Labour, Jean Corbeil, said that he wants the CCOHS to find independent sources of funding, but this is considered impossible by the Centre, especially given the short time frame. The Centre is an important source of information about workplace health and safety. Among the tasks recently carried out by the Centre have been the development of a national standard for chemicals in the workplace and the drafting of recommendations for national standards for man-made fibres. It recently broadened its electronic data base to include environmental information. Last year it distributed 8,000 compact disks of information, served 1,200 organizations and businesses with its on-line services, and handled 66,000 inquiries. It has sent out over 150,000 technical publications. Most of the data from the centre are available free to workers, unions, the public, and employers. It recovered about $441,000 last year in sales of printed materials and for conducting workshops. According to Dr. Gordon Atherley, the Centre's president, there is no way the Centre can cover its costs by fee for service. $1.45 million will be slashed from its budget this year, $4.625 million next year, and the entire budget will be eliminated by 1991.
According to David Leitch, the director of the Toronto Workers Health and Safety Legal Clinic, even if the Centre could survive by implementing high user fees, user fees will inevitably discourage inquiries, especially from small employers and workers without unions. Leitch points out that if the Centre is successful in reducing the number of workplace injuries and illnesses by even one per cent, it would be contributing direct savings of $30 million per year to the Canadian economy, several times the cost of its annual budget. And that's without counting the basic human value of lives saved or injuries prevented.

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