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TAKING A BREAK








 

Greetings and welcome to the first blog entry in what promises to be an interesting and intriguing intellectual discussion of topics including human rights issues, criminal sentencing, diversion programs, alternative dispute resolution, administrative law and more.


This blog will discuss a wide range of topics, some of which may appear more academic; however, through discussion of the issues, I intend to demonstrate the significance of these issues in our everyday lives. My plan is to educate and influence people to embrace more humane approaches to dealing with many of the issues we currently face.


Today I’d like to talk to you about the situation facing many of the interpreters working for Parliament right now. They are experiencing fatigue and injuries resulting from working long hours in poor conditions.


An article I read on CBC news commented that reports of workplace injuries such as tinnitus, headaches, and "acoustic shock" dramatically increased as a result of the switch to remote hearings.


https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/virtual-parliamentary-proceedings-cause-spike-in-injuries-for-interpreters-union-1.4930398


A constant stream of low-quality sound and loud feedback loops create what the interpreters' association calls "toxic sound."


https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/parliamentary-translators-survey-1.5879907


Prolonged exposure to this toxic sound is causing hearing loss that could become permanent. Without better working conditions interpreters may become permanently unable to perform their job. This will inevitably cause a crisis that can easily be averted if proactive steps are taken.


When looking at the standards that should be in place for the working conditions of interpreters, the Canadian Hearing Society indicates that two interpreters are needed for anything longer than two hours in duration. Interpreters are to spend 20-30 minutes actively interpreting and then switch, spelling each other off, so that each person is only actively interpreting for half the time they are in the room.


https://www.mississauga.ca/file/COM/Booking_Sign_Language_Interpreters.pdf

In contrast, the agreement between the Treasury Board and the Canadian Association of Professional Employees defines a “normal work week” as having 37.5 hours.


https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/agreements-conventions/view-visualiser-eng.aspx?id=26


Clearly, this is placing too much strain on our interpreters. Shorter hours are needed. Unfortunately, “The federal interpretation bureau did not respond immediately to requests for comment on calls for better sound quality and fewer working hours.”


https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/parliamentary-translators-survey-1.5879907

Structured breaks and better working conditions need to be in place or we will risk losing the interpreters we do have to permanent hearing loss, job burnout and fatigue. Ultimately, this is a case about resource management. Human resources are finite. They need to be managed in effective and sustainable ways. Careful management of working hours and conditions are needed to make sure we don’t destroy the resources we do have.


Properly managed working hours are needed in all industries. Everyone needs enough down time to rest and recover before returning to the same task. The amount of recovery time will invariably vary depending on the industry. Reports of workplace injuries are a clear indicator of how the working conditions are affecting the employees. Asking employees to work in conditions that injure the employees will only end in disaster. To effectively manage human resources, the employees need to be given enough breaks.


Hiring more interpreters and requiring fewer working hours will be a more effective and cost-effective proactive approach than waiting for the situation to become a full-blown crisis. This is the progressive forward-thinking approach that I will be advocating through my work in the legal systems of Ontario and Canada, and through the writings posted to this blog.


I hope you enjoy reading this and other entries to come and remember how important it is to make sure you get away from work, relax and take a break.





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