Canadian Occupational Safety

March/April 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 23 of 35

24 P E O P L E I N D U S T R Y P R O F I L E NEW INSTITUTE LINKS SAFETY TO PRODUCTIVITY From musculoskeletal disorders and work disability to post-traumatic stress injuries and fatigue, the new Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness and Performance is hoping its research can offer solutions to a variety of workplace issues that ultimately affect workforce productivity ON May 1, 2019, a new institute was formed with the goal of improving safety, wellness and performance of the Canadian workforce. It operates under the belief that everything from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and acute injuries to stress and mental health issues have an impact on the output of an organization. "There is evidence that the economic burden of lost productivity to injury is significant in Canada and it goes even beyond that; it would impact the quality deficit, it would impact the quality of service, it would impact the performance of the workforce as well," says Amin Yazdani, director of the Canadian Institute for Safety, Wellness and Performance (CISWP). Hosted within the school of business at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont., the organization is well positioned to educate and train the next generation of business leaders on how occupational health and safety and organizational performance are closely linked. It also allows for a greater opportunity to involve students directly in the research. "Now that we have this knowledge — and that's kind of what has been the missing piece — how can we train engineers? How can we train business leaders about these new concepts or perhaps these game-changing strategies?" says Yazdani. The institute is currently working on internationally, Yazdani adds, because the research is considering best practices from all across the globe. Another research project currently underway at CISWP is a Canadian standard for work disability prevention management. Yazdani has been spearheading research on work disability since 2014 when he was a PhD student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. "There are thousands of Canadians that become disabled every year and are unable to work and that would make them to be excluded from the numerous health advantages of workforce participation," Yazdani says. According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians aged 15 and older has at least one disability. And a study by Emile Tompa, co-director of the Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy, and many research projects, including a first responder fatigue risk management standard in collaboration with the CSA Group. "First responders are at high risk of suffering decrements in neurocognitive performance related to fatigue," Yazdani says. "Such performance decrements, in fact, endanger their health and safety, but not only the health and safety of those directly involved, also the health and safety of their fellow responders, fellow colleagues and the public they serve." It's necessary for management policies, standards and guidelines to be in place to reduce fatigue-related risks before they pose significant problems during emergency response operations, Yazdani says. "Any decrease in the capacity of first responders would impact society as a whole," he says. "It's very important that we acknowledge that any investment in improving the health and safety of our first responders is going to be impacting the safety and security of Canadians." The project is in the final research phase and the institute is currently conducting interviews with first responders across the country. By the end of this year, the standard is expected to be in development (led by the CSA Group) and will then be piloted in first responder organizations. The standard would not just be useful for organizations across Canada but also his colleagues revealed the cost of exclusion of persons with disabilities from full participation in society costs the country an estimated 18 per cent of GDP annually. Yazdani is hoping the standard would help employers "systematically manage work disability prevention activities." "The standard could also help create better, safer, more sustainable workplaces and lessen productivity costs related to work disability because when you look at work disability, we're not talking about only compensation and health-care costs but also the productivity loss associate with that," Yazdani says. The standard is expected to be released this spring. The institute is also working on a Canadian work disability prevention standard for paramedics with post- traumatic stress injuries (PTSIs). "Disability prevention and management for PTSI, specifically, is often dealt with reactively and differently in each paramedic organization," Yazdani says. "If you go from service to service, you see different types of practices and often these practices are not integrated in the management system." This standalone approach becomes very resource-intensive and not very effective, he explains. The researchers at CISWP are working on developing an "evidence-informed approach" to fill this critical gap. Lastly, the institute is working on a standard for paramedic ground emergency response vehicles and "If an organization goes through a financial downturn, the first thing they want to get rid of are those standalone programs." Designing work, products and environments Knowledge transfer and exchange Musculoskeletal health Mental health and wellness Organizational management systems Disability and employment Building the workforce for tomorrow RESEARCH THEMES

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