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Being a Great Safety Leader in Canada: What’s it take?

Ensure worksite safety

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

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.

The mission of the CCOHS could very well be considered the ideal standard of safety. After all, any good safety professional knows how to respond to an incident within their workplace, but a great safety professional works to identify hazards and prevent problems before an incident can occur.

8 Keys to Being a Safety Leader Within Your Organization

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 eight steps you can take to create a safe working environment — plus one step to take in the event an incident does occur.

1. Know your safety vulnerabilities

Across Canada, it is every employer’s responsibility to take all reasonable precautions necessary to create a safe working environment. Therefore, it is vital that you understand the potential dangers present in your workplace.

Depending on your industry and your specific jobsite, there could be any number of different hazards present, including electrical equipment, dangerous goods or heavy machinery.

Performing a job hazard analysis can help you identify such hazards and determine the appropriate actions needed to minimize, or completely eliminate, these issues. Additionally, knowing what types of hazards your employees may encounter lets you better understand their daily situations and makes it easier for you to help prevent problems from happening.

2. Maintain an orderly workplace

It seems to go without saying, but ensuring your worksite is physically set up in a safe way could help eliminate many hazards. The layout of any workplace should have adequate walking areas clear of debris that could cause trips or falls. There should also be appropriate and easily accessible trash disposal and spill cleanup sites.

There is one location common among a large number of businesses that, perhaps unsurprisingly, is one of the top sites of fatal injuries each year: Warehouses. If any of your operations take place in a warehouse, it is important to make your entire workforce aware of common warehouse hazards, such as materials handling, stacking and storage.

Additionally, nearly every workplace has chemicals present, ranging from cleaning products to full-scale chemical production. If chemicals are not properly used, stored and handled, they can cause injury, fire or even death. Every jurisdiction within Canada requires the implementation of a Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System regarding employer duties, training and material labeling. This must be fully enforced at all times.

Implementing a safe worksite by design, from the beginning, will make it easier to identify and avoid potential safety hazards.

3. Educate your employees

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 workplace injuries in 2017 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.

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4. 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.

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.

5. Make safety a top priority

According to CCOHS, “regular workplace inspections are an important part of the overall occupational health and safety program” of any organization. But how do you carry out effective inspections within your own workplace?

Each Canadian jurisdiction requires the creation of a health and safety committee (or, for smaller companies, the appointment of a safety representative) with certain exceptions outlined in the applicable legislation.

These committees allow workers and management to meet regularly to address health and safety issues within their workplace. Some of the responsibilities of these committees include:

  • Recognizing hazards that may cause incidents, injuries or illnesses.
  • Conducting inspections each month of all or part of the workplace
  • Participating in the development and implementation of safety programs.
  • Responding to employee complaints.
  • Setting up programs to improve employee training and education.
  • Resolving workplace refusals and work stoppages.

Regular safety audits can help ensure hazards are identified and addressed, and helps keep safety top of mind for all employees.

6. 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). Such a 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.

Having an approved SWA helps to encourage proactive thinking, rather than just reactive processes. A Stop Work Authority 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.

7. 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.

8. Be prepared

No matter how thoroughly you address workplace hazards and how well you train your workforce, incidents are all too common. In 2017, the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada reported there were 951 workplace fatalities and 251,625 workplace injuries, most of which likely could have been avoided.

When an incident occurs in your workplace, it is important that you and your employees know the proper steps to take, from stopping the work to administering first aid or contacting the appropriate healthcare professionals.

Launching an official investigation can help determine why an accident happened and what changes need to be made going forward. It is important for all employees to be trained on incident investigation in case an injury or fatality occurs in their area.

Online Training Makes Safety Easy

As the world becomes more digital seemingly every day, it makes sense that training would make the switch to digital as well. In many cases, online training is actually more convenient than, and just as effective as, in-person training sessions.

Online courses make it easy for employees at any location to complete training over the same material. For instance, many Canadian workers are required to go through training on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods. Having one online course available to all your workers, no matter where they may be located at a certain time, helps ensure they all receive consistent training.

There are times when online training can help with basic concepts but additional in-person lessons may be needed to fully satisfy a training requirement. Take PPE for example. Anyone can complete an online respiratory protection course to understand the general safety concepts, but until an employee has physically handled the types of respirators they could encounter, they may not be prepared to effectively use the PPE on the job.

Only you will be able to determine what type of training works best for your employees. Completing a job hazard analysis and regular safety audits can help you make that decision.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Throughout Canada there are varying provincial and territorial laws, in addition to federally mandated regulations, making it very important you understand the safety laws that apply to your organization.

However, no matter where you work, the safety profession is about prevention and understanding all the potential hazards within your workplace.

Once you have determined which standards apply to your workplace, it is time to implement a quality training program. See how SafetySkills makes occupational health and safety training easy, no matter your industry, job title or location.

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