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Vaughan Citizen

WSIB program helps injured employees return to work

94,000 people injured on job in 2004, conference reveals

November 26, 2005

Patrick Mangion, Staff Writer


Enjoying the SafeAbility launch were (left to right)
Frank Mabrucco, WSIB; Ray Smith, WSIB;
Bob Santos, Link Up; and Mary Wilson, WSIB

About 20 years ago, Ray Smith was taking out the garbage when his life would be forever changed.

Already blind in one eye since birth, the 52-year-old slipped on a construction skid and suffered serious injury.

In the most unlikely of circumstances, the damage was to his one good eye, which had now been lost. He would spend the following years and months immersed in a cocoon of bitterness and self pity.

Eventually, he would summon the will to dust himself off and re-integrate into the work force.

His story is a testament to how quickly and how easily any worker can become disabled and the long list of challenges that comes with it.

Today, Mr. Smith is a Workplace Safety Insurance Board community outreach specialist, training other disabled workers.

Overcoming the disability stigma and convincing employers you are not a safety liability is perhaps the greatest challenge still today, Mr. Smith said at the Sheraton Parkway Hotel in Richmond Hill last week.

He was there for the launch of Safeability, a workplace health and safety training program for disabled workers.

There are more than 100,000 people with disabilities seeking employment in the Greater Toronto Area each year, who receive little or no health and safety training, according to organizers. Last year alone, there were more than 94,000 work-related injuries in Ontario, according to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

The Safeability program hopes to change that, Bob Santos said. He heads Link Up, a Toronto employment services for disabled persons, matching thousands of workers to appropriate careers and skills training. The program addresses rights and responsibilities for workers with disabilities and injuries, he said.

It can be used during employment preparation, as part of a person’s job search and after they have begun working.

Ignoring safety on the job, no matter what line of work, is a mistake, said Catherine Turner, director of business services and programs for Job Skills.

The non-profit organization, which has two York Region offices, provides employment services and programs for workers.

“It’s important for everyone to have health and safety training and awareness, whether they’re disabled or not,” Ms Turner said.

“Disabled workers are no different from any other. We don’t distinguish. We’re all entitled to protection,” she said.

Copyright York Region Newspaper Group



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