Accueil » 36-1 ( 1981) » La santé au travail et la convention collective

La santé au travail et la convention collective

Chantal Brisson


Cet article traite de l'utilisation de la convention collective en tant qu'outil d'intervention en matière de santé au travail


Occupational Health and the Collective Agreement

This study deals with the effectiveness of the collective agreement as a means of intervention in questions of occupational health.

The first part of the study briefly situates the question of occupational health in historical and present perspectives. The possibility of inserting preventive measures in collective agreements is then treated, followed by the elaboration of research objectives.

The potential impact of the collective agreement on occupational health is limited by several factors. Nevertheless, the successes registered through them seem significant to concrete action in the workplace, and have been repeatedly and will probably continue to be used. The task at hand, therefore, is to analyse the degree of success achieved.

The study's sample included 491 collective agreements negotiated in the following sectors: manufacturing, mining and forest products. The contents of the collective agreements were analyzed by type of provision. Most frequent were references to participatory bodies (joint or otherwise) governing protective equipment and compensation. Second in importance were references to health services, information, the right of refusal, and inspection. Provisions on training and rehabilitation are less frequent, while. those on research are almost non-existent. Each classification is clearly defined, and statistical tables are provided on several points.

The interpretation of results is subdivised into two parts:

— The information available reveals a definite general interest of the bargaining partners regarding occupational health. Thus, approximately 80% of the collective agreements contained at least one pertinent provision.

— This overall interest, however, must be clearly distinguished from its effectiveness in practice.

As regards the second part, several points are dealt with:

— In order to provide meaningful protection in the areas of prevention and compensation, the relevant provisions must be as encompassing as possible. In fact, less than half of the collective agreements even approach this criteria.

— The practical impact of the relevant provisions, based on their precision, varies a great deal from one agreement to the next.

— Taken quantitatively, the relevant provisions are more oriented toward compensation than prevention, such as research, information and training.

In view of such results, it should be recognized that Law 17 (Loi sur la santé et la sécurité au travail), if properly applied, will permit a greater number of workers to benefit from the rights and remedial structures contained presently in a limited number of collective agreements.

— On the other hand, the results of this study should not be considered purely in quantitative terms. In several cases, provisions of less general impact were revealed to be very effective from the point of view of concrete applications of the collective agreement.

The development of preoccupations with occupational health in collective agreements is considered in the folio wing two ways: the increase in the use of provisions concerning occupational health over the years, as well as the impact of recent provincial legislation on occupational health and safety.

In conclusion, the limits of the collective agreement, as practised in our industrial relations System, are evaluated.