Ontario Labour Minister Opens AIHce 2009

Peter Fonseca, minister of Labour for the province of Ontario, detailed the gains in workplace safety and health that have been made since 2003 for employers and workers alike. The province's Safe At Work Ontario initiative includes monthlong workplace inspection blitzes on chemical hazards, ergonomic hazards, infectious diseases, and other concerns. Progress has been dramatic, Fonseca said during AIHce 2009's Opening General Session on Monday.

Workplace lost time injuries across the province declined from 22,000 in 2003 to 17,000 in 2008, saving employers millions of dollars in workers' compensation premiums, Fonseca said. He said the 2006 hiring of a provincial ergonomist helped to reduce a high level of musculoskeletal disorders, and the Ministry of Labour recently created a health care team to focus intensely on that area.

Monday was Injured Workers' Day in Ontario, said Fonseca, who also noted Oct. 1, 2009, will be the 30th anniversary of the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act. He said his own contacts with seriously injured workers brought home to him their "isolation, pain, depression, reduced quality of life," and lower standard of living that can result from temporary or permanent disability.

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