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No thank you: Mahoney won't seek new term at WSIB

By Mari-Len De Guzman
| www.cos-mag.com
WSIB chair Steve Mahoney

As the end of his term draws near, the chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has informed the Ontario Ministry of Labour he will not be seeking reappointment for another term. A significant factor for his decision is the impending transfer of prevention functions from the WSIB to the Ministry of Labour.

WSIB char Steve Mahoney has told minister Linda Jeffrey last week that he will not be seeking another term as the head of the workers' compensation board, after serving the agency for almost six years.

Recent developments in the province's prevention strategy has led Mahoney to rethink his post at the WSIB. In an interview with Canadian Occupational Safety, Mahoney said the province's decision to move prevention functions from the WSIB to the Ministry of Labour was a factor in his decision not to seek reappointment as chair of the WSIB.

"Things have changed in terms of the job from my perspective since prevention was moved up to the ministry and they set up the new or in the process of setting up the new prevention council," Mahoney told COS. "Prevention was kind of my thing, I guess, for the last five and a half years."

Mahoney stressed there are no ill feelings on his part about his departure from the WSIB, and that the planned shift in prevention role was "what the stakeholders said they wanted."

"I wish [chief prevention officer] George Gritziotis and his team nothing but the best and happy to support them in any way, but it’s really changed the focus and [I] thought it was time to move on," Mahoney said.

The changes in the province's prevention strategy came as a result of a province-wide review of Ontario's health and safety system led by University of Toronto professor Tony Dean. Among the Dean Panel recommendations was the creation of a new prevention council, the appointment of a new chief prevention officer and moving the role of prevention from the WSIB to the Ministry of Labour.

"I wish to thank the Premier for the honour of serving the government as Board Chair during a very transformative period," Mahoney said in a statement.

"I am very proud of our accomplishments over the past six years. It has been both a pleasure and a passion to lead the WSIB — working with Ontario’s health and safety stakeholders to help reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities in our workplaces, and to take care of our workers when unfortunate incidents occur.

Mahoney said he will continue to serve as chair of the board at the WSIB until his term expires in May 2012 to "give the government the necessary time to find a replacement, and ensure a smooth transition to new leadership."

In a statement issued Thursday, Labour minister Jeffrey expressed her gratitude to Mahoney "for his dedicated service and commitment to the working men and women of Ontario."

"He has provided steady direction at the helm of the WSIB through a period of significant transition at the agency. Under his leadership, the WSIB has made great strides in reducing time lost to injuries and illness in Ontario workplaces," Jeffrey said.

A public posting for a new chair will be issued shortly, according to the labour ministry.

Mahoney said he plans to go on a speaking tour, after his term at the WSIB ends in May, to reach out to stakeholders and continue to spread the message of prevention. (Watch for the June/July 2012 issue of COS for more on our exclusive interview with Steve Mahoney.)

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