In an effort to help immigrants in the British Columbia workforce, the B.C. Federation of Labour is offering a free ESL course this fall.
The evening workshops are open to workers throughout the Lower Mainland, including Burnaby and New Westminster, who want to improve their English speaking skills while learning about workplace health and safety.
"This program is actually unique in Canada," said Gord Lechner, Director for the Health and Safety Centre of the B.C. Federation of Labour. "We're trying to overcome any barriers that people have to accessing health and safety information."
Participants will have an opportunity to improve their language skills while learning about topics such as workplace violence, preventing back injuries, workplace chemicals (WHMIS) and identification of hazards.
This is the sixth year the program has been offered in the Lower Mainland, and is a wellused resource, said Lechner.
About 70 people have registered, and organizers expect to add more classes once the final list of participants has been confirmed.
The program was started in response to high profile tragedies that highlighted the need for increased awareness of health and safety rights and responsibilities for new Canadians with language or literacy barriers.
On March 7, 2007, a van carrying 17 people (16 farm workers and a driver) was involved in a motor vehicle accident near Abbotsford that resulted in the deaths of three immigrant workers and another 14 with severe injuries.
In an unrelated incident in 2008, three workers were killed and two were left with permanent brain damage after inhaling toxic fumes in a shed at a Langley mushroom farm.
To help prevent such tragedies, the B.C. Federation of Labour initiated the ESL program to inform and empower immigrant and migrant workers.
Upon completion, participants in the program this fall will receive a certificate and be invited to a graduation dinner.
All levels of English are welcome, but participants must either be working or intend to work in B.C. sometime in the near future.
The course runs from 5: 45 to 7: 45 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays for 14 weeks, starting Sept. 11, at 200-5118 Joyce Street (at the Joyce SkyTrain station).
This program is coordinated and run by the Health & Safety Centre, a division of the B.C. Federation of Labour, with funding from the B.C. Workers' Compensation Board (WorkSafe B.C.)
For more info, or to register for the program, visit www.healthandsafetybc.ca/esl.