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NORCAT plays role in occupational health, safety

Sudbury Star

The Northern Centre for Advanced Technology Inc. (NORCAT) may be known for its prototype development and residency program, but from its beginning NORCAT was a resource centre for occupational health and safety.

Back in 1982, Darryl Lake, who is now the CEO of NORCAT, applied to the Ontario government to establish the final occupational and resource centre in the province.

Four universities in Ontario were doing research into various areas of occupational health and safety, but that information needed to be disseminated.

Lake’s argument was that training and monitoring were the next logical steps in the field. The provincial officials took a chance and set up a program under Cambrian College.

In 1986, four miners were killed in a rock burst at Falconbridge. The recommendations from the commission that followed — the Stevenson Commission — suggested the Ontario government establish training in ground control.

Lake applied and the Ontario Centre for Ground Control Training was established.

These programs became the foundation of NORCAT and are still the financial foundation for all of its other operations.

“We knew at the time that if we were continuously on government money, as a non-for-profit, we wouldn’t make it,” Lake said.

“This gave us a very stable base to build on and that’s why today we are a self-sustaining not-for-profit, which is an anomaly to say the least.”

NORCAT has become the centre for contractor orientation, common core and on-line training.

“It started by going to the ministries and agencies that look after the due diligence for their own people,” Lake said.

“With the contractor orientation, many of the companies have put that burden on NORCAT and said, ‘You do the due diligence,’ in other words, the record keeping.”

Most of the mines in Northern Ontario and many companies across Canada use NORCAT’s training programs.

Tony Ingram, who is a health and safety engineer, runs the Occupational Health and Safety Resource Centre and heads a team of people who provide health and safety information and training, including Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System or WHMIS training.

“When a high school co-op class is going into an industry, they need WHMIS training and general health and safety,” Lake said.

“We can do that through our electronic media at our Evergreen Street place or we will do it on-line through our e-learning system, but Tony usually goes in to answer specific questions young people may have.”

Lake said statistics show that young people specifically are at risk for injury on the job.

In addition, Ingram’s team does workplace hazards assessments and helps businesses establish a health and safety management program specifically for its needs.

“He works with joint health and safety committees as a NORCAT consultant and technical expert in the field, where he brings the training to the people electronically, through our other offices or personally goes in and works with them, ”

As buildings become better insulated, indoor air quality becomes an issue. NORCAT provides monitoring for airborne chemical hazards, indoor environmental quality assessment and monitoring of moulds for schools, offices and private homes.

“We do everything from monitoring of hospitals to monitoring of homes,” Lake said.

“When we do that we are trying to relate the best scientific information that’s available today to the people.

“We try to portray that in lay-man’s terms so the average person or business person can understand that.”

Ingram’s crew goes into a home or business and sets up a monitoring package to collect samples at very specific times as set out in occupational health and safety manuals or hazard booklets.

Once the data are collected and compiled, they meet with the homeowner or business owner to explain the results, making recommendations according to government standards.

The cost for these tests is established during a consultation. Tests are done on average households are usually done at cost, especially for people on fixed incomes. For businesses and larger home testing, it is cost plus.

“We are a socially-responsible, community citizen and we want to help people,” Lake said.

“We want to give back to the community, but we can’t do that and go broke at the same time. We want to help anyone we can help.”

NORCAT doesn’t advertise its services, because it’s overwhelmed with amount of work the centre already has.

“We’ve been in business a long time and we’ve dealt with most people in Sudbury at one time or another,” Lake said.

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