Health student preoccupied with safety

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Workplace safety program earns Cindy Lew $1,000 scholarship

By Jessica Laughren

A Ryerson student is the recipient of the first post-secondary health and safety scholarship in Canada.

Last week, Cindy Lew was presented the Jim McLellan Occupational Health and Safety Award for her contributions to the health and safety industry.

“I’m very honoured to receive the first of this type of scholarship in Canada. This kind of recognition means a lot to me and the other (health and safety) students,” Lew said.

Lew was recognized for her ongoing passion for issues of health and safety, but most notably for her involvement with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) where she developed the “College and University Student Health and Safety Awareness” program, designed to educate post-secondary students about the dangers and hazards of the workplace.

The second-year occupational and public health student, received the $1,000 award from the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA), the country’s largest health and safety awareness organization.

Maureen Shaw, CEO and President of the IAPA said she was pleased to present the first scholarship of this kind in Canada.

“Twenty years ago there was very little training for people going into the occupational health and safety industry. Now schools like Ryerson are offering degree programs in this area. We want to encourage students to look at this industry as not only a viable profession but as a cutting edge career choice,” Shaw said.

Occupational Health professor, Brian Jones said that a good occupational health and safety inspector must have a passion for their work, and he feels Lew possesses this.

“They have to be able to understand and instantly recognize hazards within the workplace. They must be good with people because they have to relate to them and be able to explain to them why a situation might be dangerous and what protective measures should be put in place,” Jones said.

When she graduates in the spring, Lew said she wants to work on the prevention side of the issue. She feels the biggest gap in workplace health and safety is awareness.

“The mentality of employers and employees must change. A lot of these people don’t understand they have a responsibility to integrate health and safety into the workplace. It is not until a safety inspector comes knocking at their door and fines them that they even realize they were doing something wrong,” she said.

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