Tony Dean wants to make sure the passing of the torch from Ontario’s first Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) to the second doesn’t go without due recognition of George Gritziotis’s “massive accomplishments in a very difficult and complex environment.”
Dean led the province’s Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety that reported to the Ministry of Labour in 2010, a year after the fatal Toronto swing stage tragedy focused the province on systemic flaws in its health and safety system. The panel recommended the creation of the CPO office.
Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn and new CPO Ron Kelusky paid tribute to Gritziotis’s foundational work during his six-year term as CPO at Kelusky’s inauguration March 7 but Dean, elevated to Canada’s Senate last year, felt broader analysis is required.
“It caused me to reflect on what has been done,” said Dean.
“When I look back at what we left in 2010, 2011 in terms of the set of recommendations, in terms of system reform, much of it depended on the right person with the right leadership attributes with the right skills, with the right reputation- and relationship-building skills, to come in and breathe oxygen into this thing. I look back and saw he did that and did it very well.”
Gritziotis was named the new CEO of the Ontario College of Trades in September 2017. He had taken on the challenge of becoming Ontario’s first CPO in 2011.
Further recommendations coming from the Dean panel included identifying better methods of sharing health and safety best practices; introducing training requirements for high-risk activities such as working at heights in the construction industry; and ensuring more collaboration between agencies and a more flexible range of enforcement tools for health and safety inspectors.
“I know George would have liked to more significantly bring numbers down in terms of workplace incidents,” said Dean.
“We all would, but when I think of the checklist, I know that a couple of years ago I went through it and asked the ministry for a status report. I was pleasantly surprised by how much had been accomplished in those areas.”
The first step for Gritziotis, said Dean, was defining the role of a CPO.
“Walking into a public service organization, establishing relationships on the political side and public service side, with the disparate range of health and safety organizations in the system, that task can’t be underestimated,” said the senator.
“In the first seven months, George did that and that was the foundation. It was a unique position, one that reported to a minister, and involved a deputy minister, and a system that needed some coherence and a report with suggestions that were new and different and with some stretch targets.
“When I look back on it, George did a fantastic job of establishing the CPO job.”
Gritziotis developed a strategic plan that prescribed ways to implement the panel’s recommendations, created councils to consult with stakeholders, developed a working at heights training program and in mid-stream, said Dean, managed a mining health and safety review.
“He stepped into the system and worked with some big and muscular players and organizations to start thinking about bringing some coherence and a sense of mission and purpose at a system level,” said Dean.
“And I would say about breakthroughs, getting our report implemented in full, and moving the yardsticks considerably about developing a coherent system, with clear leadership, with clear accountability, with funding levers — the number of people trained to work at heights, 400,000, is hard to fathom.
“It is a terrific base on which others who follow him can build.”
Dean looks at health and safety in 2018
TORONTO — More than seven years after the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety he led recommended sweeping changes to Ontario’s health and safety regime, Tony Dean said there are a couple of frontiers that have emerged as growing challenges for the province.
“One of the challenges is the growth and penetration of the underground economy,” he commented recently. “Given our focus as an advisory group on risk, we know the construction sector is a significant area of involvement for underground operators, and that’s an area that attracts more risk than the formal economy.”
Dean suggested a broader range of players could be involved in keeping an eye on the health and safety risk associated with the underground economy, including the Ontario College of Trades, finance ministry inspectors and municipal inspectors.
The second is vulnerable migrant and seasonal workers.
“You don’t have to go too far in Ontario, and I went as far as Leamington when I was doing the review, to find that the immigrant workers workforce is vulnerable to labour-trafficking and all the issues that go alongside that,” he said.