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B.C. finalizes merger of construction safety groups

By Timothy Bryant
| www.cos-mag.com

The construction industry in British Columbia has finalized the amalgamation of two of its construction safety associations, converging into one umbrella organization that will serve the province’s entire construction industry.

After unanimous votes by the boards of directors of both organizations in June 2010, the B.C. Construction Safety Network (CSN) and the Construction Safety Association of B.C. (CSABC) agreed to combine their services under a new banner.

This new organization, the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA), will maintain the goals and priorities of its predecessors, while continuing to provide the same services.

The merger is a result of WorkSafeBC suggesting it would be better if the CSN and CSABC combined their services, without forcing them to do so, said BCCSA spokesperson Alicia Brady. When both the CSN and CSABC formed, they had slightly different philosophies on how to deliver safety training, Brady said.

“In hindsight, [WorkSafeBC] soon realized after that that didn’t make a lot of sense; they were funding two associations to do the same thing,” she said.

The amalgamation of the two organizations was not forced, but allowed to evolve and “take shape,” Brady said. This was mainly because “there were two sides of the industry that didn’t quite see things the same way: the one side that wanted mandatory training and the other side that said, ‘we don’t want to make it mandatory for every company, but we want safety things in place,’” she said.

Don Schouten, WorkSafeBC’s industry and labour services manager for construction, said the merger came about when industry members agreed combining their services would be in the best interest of all involved.

“Industry had also expressed the interest to merge into one association, and again everybody looked at the situation and said, ‘well, it makes sense to have one main association,’” he said.

Construction companies in B.C. could also benefit financially from this merger, Brady said. Before the merger, WorkSafeBC collected money from companies across the province and distributed it to both the CSN and CSABC for prevention training. Now the money is going solely to the BCCSA, so it’s the BCCSA’s understanding the amount collected from each company will decrease, she said.

Another benefit of the merger is that it provides workers and employers with one place to go for comprehensive help with training and organizational assets, while eliminating potential inefficiencies caused by having two organizations providing the same services, said Murray Coell, B.C.’s Labour minister.

This is a sentiment Schouten echoes, saying, “pulling them together as one and having one . . . will help give a focused approach” to providing services.

The BCCSA will also act as the primary Certificate of Recognition certifier in the province, as well as provide a range of other training programs. These include the Construction Safety Specialist, Traffic Control and Construction Safety Training System programs.

In addition, the BCCSA will continue to work with WorkSafeBC to focus on the three leading causes of death and injury at B.C. construction sites: falls, being struck and overexertion.

Schouten said he sees the relationship between WorkSafeBC and the BCCSA as one of partnership.

“It’s not about WorkSafeBC, it’s not about the [BCCSA], it’s about improving safety in the construction industry as a whole,” he said.

On the whole, Coell said the B.C. Labour ministry believes the merger will have a positive effect on the province’s construction industry.

“We’re pleased with that. I think it will serve workers well in the future. It puts a focus on workplace safety,” he said.

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