Canadian Occupational Safety

January/February 2021

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 17 of 47

F E A T U R E 18 SPEAKING THE SAFETY LANGUAGE This year's individual gold winners look back at important discussions that took place at the 2020 Canada's Safest Employers Awards and look toward the bright future of the OHS profession FOR this issue, COS spoke with the 2020 individual winners of Canada's Safest Employers Awards: Erika Harris, EHS & Responsible Care specialist, BASF Canada, Rising Star of the Year; Phil Verster, president and CEO of Metrolinx, CEO of the Year; and Erin Oliver, vice president of health, safety and sustainability at Modern Niagara Group, Safety Leader of the Year. Our three recipients were incredibly insightful and more than happy to discuss pressing matters in the OHS sector. This year, the CSE Awards went virtual. As part of our revamped event, we put together a series of panels featuring a number of our finalists. These panels were a great way for our nominees to bounce ideas off each other; they were also a wonderful learning experience for our attendees. We spoke with our three winners, fresh off their well-deserved wins, about what they learned on the day and what the future looks like for safety professionals (hint: it's looking pretty great). The panels covered some of the hot button issues in the OHS sector. The CSE Awards recompense the best and brightest in a number of industries, so there was certainly quite a bit of ground to cover. Chemical safety, beyond WHMIS compliance Harris, who participated in our panel on chemical safety, says: "I think one of the biggest takeaways from the Chemical Safety [panel] that I participated in with Luca [Romano], Paul [Fewer] and Shannon [Watt] was that there's really place are effective," says Harris. She says that really goes hand in hand with training and knowing how to properly use equipment. The power of collaboration Our winners say that this pandemic has increased collaboration between organizations, a bright spot despite COVID-19. "As a member of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), we have several safety communities that exist that all focus on different things. But we were all able to meet virtually throughout the pandemic," says Harris. "And we were able to share best practices, lessons learned, share contacts for services that we were having a difficulty procuring. So that really helped us, as well as making sure that we're all implementing those best practices and continuing to improve the sharing of critical supplies and PPE." Oliver, who was on a number of panels during the virtual event, so much more to consider in chemical safety than just WHMIS compliance." She says one of the key points brought up during the panel was the importance of a strong preventative maintenance program. "When you're working with chemicals, you want to make sure that your equipment is always in the condition it needs to be in," says Harris. "And you want to be preventative with that because, once there is a breakdown, then it's too late; you've had an incident." As well as applying controls, says Harris, it's very important to mitigate risks according to the hierarchy of control. Another key point raised by Romano during the panel was the importance of medical surveillance and fit testing for at-risk employees. "It's one thing that [workers] read the SDS and know how to protect themselves in the workplace, but also surveillance programs are in place to ensure that they're not being exposed and that the controls that we put in concurs and says that, with COVID, what she has seen is "companies that would normally compete with one another… willing to expose their vulnerabilities. We haven't seen this kind of sharing and bartering of goodwill in a very, very long time." "What I heard consistently across all of the panels, which was really heartwarming, was the amount that safety professionals work with one another irrelevant of competitive differences," says Oliver. "They reached out to one another, and they had a great deal of respect for one another and what they've accomplished." It was a sign of both ingenuity and innovation, says Oliver. "Specifically, what I heard was the value of the network, but also the willingness to try and find a bridge where none existed, especially with COVID. These people recognize that, this being such a unique event, they couldn't rely solely on their historical knowledge. And they were willing to find creative ways to collaborate and create safety," says Oliver. "You'd be paralyzed from protecting people if you depended on the rules, because this is an event for which no rules exist," she says. "To innovate safely, you can't look backwards, you have to look forwards. And the panelists all had that that vision of "What I heard consistently across all of the panels, which was really heartwarming, was the amount that safety professionals work with one another irrelevant of competitive differences." Erin Oliver, Modern Niagara Group

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