Collaboration aims to make construction safer for women workers
(Canadian OH&S News) — The Alberta Construction Safety Association (ACSA) has launched a new partnership with Women Building Futures (WBF), an Edmonton-based group that trains women in industrial trades. The partnership aims to make the province’s construction sector safer for female workers.
The two organizations announced their collaboration at a joint event in Edmonton on the morning of Feb. 8, the first of their “Breakfast with the Leaders” speaker series. ACSA chief operating officer Tammy Hawkins and former WBF CEO JudyLynn Archer were the keynote speakers at the event, according to Kathy Kimpton, WBF’s current president and CEO.
“It was a fantastic event,” Kimpton told COHSN. “We were able to hear JudyLynn and Tammy speak from their respective positions and experiences in life, and then there was a great question-and-answer period.”
Many stakeholders in the Alberta construction industry attended the event, including government occupational health and safety representatives, said Hawkins.
“Ultimately, we’re looking to create safer workplaces for everyone, for the women themselves and for the women that they work with when they get to the job,” she added.
The union will allow WBF students, alumni and employees to have access to ACSA training programs and services. One of the goals of the new partnership is to keep safety at the forefront of everything WBF does, Kimpton explained. “It’s not going to be something that we just talk about, but we really want to invest in it so it’s in the DNA of our organization,” she said.
“The women that we’re training are going into environments where there is an element of risk, a lot more so than there are perhaps in the environments that they’re coming from,” continued Kimpton. “We really want to make sure they understand how important safety is, that they have all the tools and knowledge that they require.”
While the safety risks in construction work are no more relevant to women than they are to men, the jobs have been traditionally held by male workers. “The element of risk is increased because of the occupation that they’re looking at, more so than anything,” she said about female construction workers. “We go over the top to make sure that they are well-prepared in every facet that they need to be.”
Hawkins agreed that women entering nontraditional careers like construction often do not have the health and safety training they need. “Employers look for people who have health and safety training,” she added.
“It’s really a nice marketing tool for the people receiving that training, and that can ultimately create safer workplaces,” said Hawkins about the partnership.
While ACSA and WBF had already been working together for years — “we’ve had an informal partnership for a long time,” according to Hawkins — Archer’s resignation in January spurred the two groups to collaborate more officially.
“JudyLynn is still working with our organization on government relations and chief stakeholder relations,” said Kimpton. “She was the one that really conceived this idea, this partnership with Tammy.”
About 34,600 women in Alberta currently work in the construction sector, and an increase in jobs in the industry is expected over the next decade, according to information from WBF. ACSA and WBF are anticipating further opportunities women in construction, as about 250,000 workers in the industry are expected to retire across Canada in the near future.
ACSA is Alberta’s largest safety organization, with more than 36,000 active members. It provides safety training as well as Certificate of Recognition, National Construction Safety Officer and Health & Safety Administrator designations. WBF was founded in 1998.
The next “Breakfast with the Leaders” event is scheduled for March 23.