Refugees and Immigrants Do Not Receive Enough Workplace Training

Refugees and Immigrants from all over the world come to Canada every day. They seek a new life in a country that believes in multiculturalism and bringing communities together. When they arrive, they seek a place to live and a job. Those jobs could include a cashier at a local supermarket or a factory worker, moving materials. These refugees and immigrants then become hard-working members of their community.

However, something very important was missed. What happens if a workplace injury occurs? Who do they approach to report an injury? Can they talk to their employer about it, or is there a fear? Those answers may be easy to someone who has grown up in this country but as Agnieszka Kosny, a scientist at the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) in Toronto found out in a study, refugees and immigrants are not receiving any knowledge of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) or what that entails.

Kosny interviewed one-hundred and ten recent refugees and immigrants from Ontario, Canada who have lived in Canada for less than three years. The results show that while some received WHMIS or on-line training, the majority of them only received safety training pertaining to client and customer, such as food handling.

The vast majority of the participants had extremely limited knowledge about employment standards and they knew nothing about the responsibilities of their employer’s vis-a-vis safety training or protective equipment and they did not know what to do when they were asked to do something unsafe or when they were injured,” said, research associate at IWH, Basak Yanar.

Some of the people interviewed even recounted stories of feeling threatened with being reprimanded or being fired if an injury occurred.

He told me, ‘Remember, if you will go now, I will send a report against you to the temporary agency and I will tell them that you have a problem in your back... They will not call you again for any kind of job. And maybe they will cancel your file,’” the interviewer said.

Unfortunately, the responsibility has been diffused to different levels including Employers, Immigration, Labour and others who feel that it is the other organizations responsibility to bring this information to new refugees and immigrants.

While resources such as websites are available, they are sometimes hard to navigate and may not be clear and concise. It takes everyone from government, down to the employers to make sure the new immigrants and refugees are fully trained and informed of OHS and what their employee rights are before they begin their job.

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