ONTARIO MUNICIPAL HEALTH AND SAFETY REPRESENTATIVES ASSOCIATION
Municipal health and safety generally fell into the hands of a few dedicated practitioners in the field of health and safety, who developed and implemented the best practices and training programs available to assist their respective municipalities in their occupational health and safety efforts. This was often done in isolation as there was no formal resource or coordinating organization existed.
In 1980 a few OHS practitioners in the Greater Toronto Area got together to share information and experiences and to support each other in the delivery of Occupational Health & Safety programming to their municipalities. After a year of meeting they expanded their group to include individuals from the Golden Horseshoe and southwestern Ontario.
Initially OMHSRA was formed as a mentoring and support group for this small group of health and safety practitioners and this approach was used as the driving force to conduct a few planned meetings per year. The meetings were usually hosted by a member at one of the more easily accessible municipal locations. Halton Region’s head office, North York, Toronto City Hall and Region of Waterloo, were the preferred venues.
To offset the cost of hosting the meetings, it was suggested that membership dues be charged. OMHSRA was officially formed.
The Construction Safety Association of Ontario
The Construction Safety Association of Ontario (CSAO), was the Safe Workplace Association that had the most contact with municipalities, as a result of municipalities being major users of construction related services. CSAO recognized the potential for aiding this new ad-hoc group of safety practitioners to deliver occupational health and safety services and, as an extension, the benefits of incorporating municipal workplaces into the CSAO fold. CSAO assigned one of their Safety Advisors, to work with this group and to provide support of municipal occupational health and safety efforts. CSAO became the regular meeting location at no cost to the participants.
News of OMHSRA group spread, as the need for occupational health and safety services in municipalities increased, the organization began to grow in membership. OMHSRA was often asked to respond, in an official capacity, to procedural and philosophical proposals on municipal health and safety issues.
In the 90's
Municipal Health & Safety Program (MHSP, the precursor of MHSA) was officially established by the WCB (the precursor of the WSIB).
MHSP became the designated Safe Work Association for municipalities. Initially, the MHSP operated its programs independently from OMHSRA. OMHSRA successfully lobbied the WCB to achieve Board Members Status on the MHSP Board of Directors. Since early 2000, the relationship between OMHSRA and MHSA existed until 2012 when Ontario’s Prevention stream changed.
In the late 1990’s OMHSRA expanded its ability to network with members throughout Ontario by establishing an Internet based discussion mailing list, known as the OMHSRA ML. In 2002 OMHSRA established a web site, www.OMHSRA.ca and a formal membership process. In 2002 membership had grown from a handful of members to more than 125 members, representing approximately 70 municipalities.
In 2019, OMHSRA's on-line capabilities were once again expanded by providing members with an on-line members' library for research and development of internal training, policies and programs.
At the end of 2019, OMHSRA consisted of over 200 members, representing over 140 municipally funded organizations.
Although the Association's function was understood by many, having "Representatives" in its name sometimes brought confusion that its members were not safety professionals, rather OHSA Section 8 Health & Safety Representatives, or worker member representatives of joint health and safety committees (JHSCs). In April 2020, OMHSRA – Ontario Municipal Health & Safety Representatives Association was rebranded as OMHSPA - Ontario Municipal Health & Safety Professionals Association, and a new website, www.OMHSPA.ca was created.
Over the years, OMHSRA has provided input into legislative changes through the Chief Prevention Office of the Ministry of Labour, now known as the Ministry of Labour, Training & Skills Development. OMHSPA intends to continue this practice in the future.