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Benefits of Making Safety Training a Priority in Canadian Workplaces

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Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

Each year, the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) reports on the number of fatal workplace injuries occurring across the country. In 2018, this number rose from 951 to 1,027.

While it is never ideal to see the number of deaths increasing year-over-year, you must consider that there were almost 300,000 more workers in 2018, resulting in only a slight increase in fatality rate. Maintaining a consistent rate highlights the importance of safety training.

When safety training, and continued safe practices, are implemented, you can be sure your employees are aware of the correct steps to take to create a safe working environment and happy employees.

Meeting and Maintaining Compliance

In 1978, the Parliament of Canada passed the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Act to “promote the fundamental right of Canadians to a healthy and safe working environment.”

Part of this Act was the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), which has a goal of eliminating work-related illnesses and injuries across Canada. The CCOHS is governed by a tripartite Council of Governors representing the government, employers and workers to create a balanced agency.

In addition to this federal agency, each province and territory has its own occupational health and safety regulations, with specific rights and responsibilities, outlined for employers and employees, in every area.

Understanding the jurisdictional regulations, including federal, is up to each employer. These will guide the creation of a safety program and are an ideal starting point when looking for topics your employees need to be trained on.

Taking Control of Safety

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When you think of occupational health and safety (OHS), you likely think of how an employee recognizes hazards and responds to workplace accidents. While this is still extremely important, you must also recognize that the field is changing and is becoming more about prevention and hazard identification.

OHS experts have started focusing on educating employees and identifying potential issues rather than on what is essentially damage control. The hope is that taking a prevention-based approach and trying to stop an accident from ever happening will help companies save the time and money that comes along with mitigating the effects of workplace accidents.

A job safety analysis (JSA), sometimes called a job hazard analysis, task hazard analysis or job hazard breakdown, is one way for your company to identify and work to correct potential dangers in your specific workplace.

Conducting a JSA will help you understand the most dangerous jobs in your workplace, what those specific hazards entail, and corrective and preventive measures you can take to reduce or completely eliminate the likelihood of accidents, injuries and illnesses.

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Safety Starts at the Top

In order for workplace safety to be truly effective, education and implementation need to start at the top. Employees are more likely to follow all the proper procedures if management and those in safety positions lead by example. Here are four steps you can take to create a safe working environment.

1. Educate all workers

Along with creating a safe working environment, employers also have a responsibility to train all employees on potential hazards and what to do should an incident occur.

While this certainly includes workplace-specific training on applicable hazards, protective equipment and response procedures, there are general safety topics employees in any industry or working environment should be trained on.

For example, falls accounted for nearly 20% of all Canadian lost time claims in 2018 but this type of accident can often be easily avoided. Having your workforce complete a fall safety course can help employees identify fall hazards and ways they can minimize or eliminate those hazards.

2. Ensure workers use the proper safety equipment

No matter what kind of hazard may be present on a jobsite, there is some form of personal protective equipment (PPE) that can help protect affected workers. While all Canadian jurisdictions require the use of PPE, the question of who is responsible for providing and paying for PPE varies throughout the country.

The Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Quebec require the employer to provide all necessary PPE at no cost to the employee. Six jurisdictions (Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Yukon) offer some guidance regarding who is responsible for the cost.

The remaining jurisdictions (Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and any organization falling under federal jurisdiction) are not specific about responsibility for PPE purchases.

However, regardless of who pays for the equipment, it is still up to the employer to ensure all PPE is the correct type and is in safe working condition, and that each employee is properly trained on using the equipment.

3. Empower your employees

Even when employers do all they can to set up their workplaces for safety success, it is truly up to the employees to make sure safe habits are being carried out. After all, the employees are involved in the day-to-day operations; they are much more likely to be the first to see potential issues.

One way you can empower your employees is to implement a Stop Work Authority (SWA). After all, every person employed in Canada is entitled to three basic rights, which includes the right to refuse work that could be dangerous for themselves or for others.

An SWA policy makes it possible for a competent, trained employee to identify a situation that is unsafe or where there is imminent danger and gives them the power and obligation to stop the work before an incident happens. This allows workers to manage their own safety in real time, without waiting for managerial approval if a dangerous situation does, or could, occur.

Employees should also be encouraged to conduct regular safety checks of their own areas to ensure standards are being met by every worker. By putting this power into the hands of the employees rather than only people in management, you will foster a culture of safety from the ground up.

4. Don’t forget the basics

When you think about worker safety, you probably consider some of the things discussed here, such as personal protective equipment, safety protocols and thorough training. However, it is important to also consider ergonomics, which is a basic but often-overlooked area of opportunity that aims to increase productivity and reduce discomfort.

From an ergonomic perspective, effective workplace planning along with well-designed equipment can help minimize or eliminate potential risks and reduce worker injury. CCOHS offers guides on many different ergonomic topics such as lifting, lighting and sitting at a desk.

Having your employees complete ergonomic training can also help, as many times this training will cover things that you never stop to think about but that can be so important to health and safety.

Training Today’s Employees

Employee taking training on mobile phone

As the generation raised on technology is now the largest working generation in Canada, overtaking Baby Boomers in 2016, it makes sense that training techniques have changed. Perhaps one of the most significant changes regarding training this new workforce is having mobile-optimized content. After all, 97% of Canadians that fall into the Millennial generation own a smartphone.

The pervasiveness of always-connected mobile devices means learning should be available at all times and accessible from anywhere. Additionally, the content must not only be accessible on a mobile device but it must function just as well as it would on a desktop computer. Think about when you visit a website on your computer versus on your phone. The look, feel and overall usability need to match in order to provide the best experience.

Because we have become a mobile-first society and have developed an affinity for short interactions, such as those common on Snapchat or Instagram, it is necessary for training to be fully engaging from beginning to end. Users are far more likely to stay actively present in a training video lasting 3-10 minutes than in a full lecture that could last from 30 minutes to well over an hour.

Microlearning, the common name for these short learning modules, suits the reality of today’s learners very well. You can find them as short as three minutes, meaning they get directly to the point without any unnecessary “filler” content that may distract from the key information.

Take Advantage of Remote Training

Employee training remotely on tablet

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the rapid spread of a newly discovered virus named SARS-CoV-2, commonly known as COVID-19 or coronavirus, as a pandemic. Since then, each of the provinces and territories have taken action in an effort to slow — and ideally stop — the spread of the virus.

Many Canadian jurisdictions have elected to have non-essential employees work from home. Some businesses, such as personal service providers and retail stores, have had to suspend work altogether.

While your workers may be limited in their job duties, now is an ideal time to implement online training strategies. Remote training can help your workforce get caught up on regulatory training requirements or maybe even learn new skills.

For instance, many Canadian workers are required to go through training on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods. Having online coursework available to all your workers, no matter where they may be located, helps ensure they all receive consistent training.

For more than 20 years, SafetySkills has worked to incorporate important OHS topics into mobile-friendly, interactive training courses. See how SafetySkills makes online occupational health and safety training easy, no matter your industry, job title or location.

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