Canadian Occupational Safety

May/June 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 33 of 35

F E A T U R E 34 who were probably around my age and younger asking me about how I got into the industry. [Realizing] I could be a mentor to a young woman just starting her OHS career, that was a really neat thing." "I was thoroughly impressed by the turnout and the interest on that day, to see such a large group of ladies in health and safety come together," says Sukdhoe. "As a woman that's so passionate about this, it was such a great feeling. The other good thing was networking with other women in safety, to know that you're feeling the same way." This need and desire to network is one of the essential parts of WOHSS. Benay recalls: "We started about three years ago in a pub… It's grown exponentially in the last few years. [When] it started, it was like 'Can we do this?' We each brought a different skill to the table. In the last two years, we've gone national. As soon as people heard about it, we were inundated. We've really seen benefits in the networking aspect — even to vent!" It is essential to provide a safe space for women to gather and be able to exchange, inspire and empower each other. The event was an important platform for discussion, and a place to hopefully come up with productive solutions for issues that directly affect them. At the end of the day, that's what events like these are all about. Looking toward the future Nevertheless, there remain many issues for women in safety to overcome, many of which were discussed during the event. Benay spotlights changes that need to be made with regards to workplace harassment. "One thing that hasn't changed — physical safety is still an issue. For women in remote areas, working alone, in 25 years, that hasn't changed. Sexual harassment is definitely still there; what's changed is that women are much more vocal about it. Language around it is very different." She also mentions another huge issue facing women — PPE. "Having PPE that fits you properly and is comfortable is critical to being able to do your job." Benay highlights the importance of provincial and federal legislation in pushing forward progress. "We affect some very interesting changes when the government drives… I see it in the difference between B.C. and Alberta. Advocacy is a priority for the organization [WOHSS]. We've been looking at building relationships, we want to become a valuable resource for governments." After the roaring success of this year's event, no doubt next year will be even bigger and better. One thing is clear though and that is that women are here for each other and want each other to succeed. Another thing? They're here to stay. "It's not just about overcoming, you can thrive… Sometimes, we're fighting against things; it can feel very slow sometimes. The conference provided us a good perspective of hope that things are changing," says Benson. "In this role, I realized that you can give so much. It has such an impact on people's lives," says Sukdhoe. "I think that if you're working around women who are confident and empowered, they won't actually feel threatened by you; they will support you to get your job done. [It's about] sharing your story, empowering other women and uplifting them." "It's not just about overcoming, you can thrive… Sometimes, we're fighting against things, [and] it can feel very slow sometimes. The conference provided us a good perspective of hope that things are changing." Sheri Benson, founder of Thrive Safety Consulting A FEW THINGS ABOUT WOHSS Source: Women in Occupational Health & Safety Society (WOHSS) WHAT? Women in Occupational Health & Safety Society (WOHSS) WHY? Supporting women working in the OH&S industry, WOHSS is a not-for-profit WHEN? The society was incorporated in 2017 WHERE? WOHSS is active throughout Canada WHO? Calgary-based Paula M.A. Campkin is the society's chairperson

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