Monte McNaughton: “Open and honest conversations about health and safety are critical for all of us”

Growing up in a small town can have some drawbacks, but for Monte McNaughton, the lessons he learned as a young man working in his family’s building supplies store in Newbury, Ont. helped shape the way he sees the world today.

“But probably the greatest lesson I ever got was from my mother, who told me on my wedding night; There will be some good days and there will be some challenging ones. Learn how to laugh. Learn to say sorry. And whatever may come, always keep talking,” Ontario’s Labour Minister told a sold-out gathering of health and safety professionals and construction industry leaders at A Safer Ontario For the People event hosted by Tickner and Associates.

That piece of advice stuck with me. And I’ve brought it with me into politics,” said McNaughton, adding the moment he was named Minister of Labour back in June, he reached out to more than 150 labour leaders, hundreds of employers and countless workers across the province.

He said he told everyone the same thing, that his door is always open. “We may not agree on everything, but I want to hear you out,” McNaughton told those gathered at the at the Richmond Hill Country Club Nov. 15.

“I want workers to know that I respect them — that I consider myself one of them,” said McNaughton, who recently had training, and skills development added to his already long list of duties.

“Because when it comes down to it, we value the exact same things; the importance of hard work, cooperation and good-paying jobs … and the belief that we all have the right – young, old white or blue collar – to come home safely after a hard day’s work,” said McNaughton, who was joined on an expert panel led by Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer, Ron Kelusky, Erin Oliver, vice-president of Employee Health and Safety, Modern Niagara Group, and Monica A. Szabo, chair of the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (CRSPs).

McNaughton noted that the government has pledged $144 billion toward infrastructure investment over the next decade that is critical to the future growth of our province and will deliver vital construction jobs throughout Ontario.

“Clearly, our government believes the construction sector is key to this province’s future, he said adding “boilermakers to electricians to roofers, construction workers fuel the engine of our economy.”

McNaughton was “shocked” to learn that 24 young workers died of workplace accidents between 2014 and 2018.

“As a father that makes me sad,” he said. “As minister, this statistic makes me very, very angry. One death at a workplace is one too many.”

“Every mom and dad deserve to know that their child will return home after a good day’s work.”

“The sector has spoken loudly and clearly, telling me that we must continue to prioritize health and safety. We see far too many workplace injuries in the construction sector. When workplace injuries happen, peoples’ lives are devastated.

The tragedies are alarming and unacceptable, he said, adding “folks in my ministry try to do their part by providing the guidance and regulations that keep workers safe. “We conduct inspection blitzes every year to raise safety awareness and help prevent injuries and fatalities,” said McNaughton.

“We’ve had some successes … but there’s always more that we can do. Open and honest conversation about health and safety are critical for all of us, and it’s something that belongs in our homes, offices and on our job sites.”

He said the government’s vision for a safer Ontario includes working with Canadian registered safety professionals on a voluntary program that will reward safe employers. The program will be launched soon, he added.

 “We will continue to raise awareness of workplace rights and responsibilities to improve workplace safety in every way we know how. We all need to acknowledge the nature of the work you do and the risks you face.

Roger Tickner, president and CEO of Tickner and Associates echoed the Minister’s vision on working together with CRSPs.

“If you want to improve the profession you have to give everyone a seat at the table. It’s the idea of participation and having people come together at the table to give their opinions because nobody, including myself, has all the answers, but collectively we have a tremendous amount of strength. The amount of talent and expertise in this room is phenomenal. We must tap into that,” Tickner said.

The more than $7,000 in registration proceeds were handed over to Threads of Life – a Canadian registered charity dedicated to supporting families after a workplace fatality, life-altering injury or occupational disease – during a cheque presentation that day.