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 19 of 47

F E A T U R E 20 organization behaves differently. There's a halo effect, he says. "When you have safety awareness in your organization, one of the halo effect benefits you get is that people are tuned in to things and they respond to things and they act quicker on things.… It's easier to work with people when they're all starting from the same understanding." Oliver shares a similar sentiment. "I think safety culture is about the human capital.… Business at its roots must have a level of respect and nurturing for the human capital to be successful." It is important to understand the passions of the people with whom we work, says Oliver. If you don't understand the passion, she says, then they're not going to listen to you. This boils down to humanistic qualities such as trust, respect and integrity. "Those are the underpinnings of safety culture." People tend to forget that safety is also strongly driven by data, statistics and science, says Oliver. Fundamentally, safety professionals need to "move away from the policing state to a more coaching and collaborative state, which is essential for a strong safety culture," she says. Planning a career in safety Another point that arose from panel discussions is the value being placed on the professionalism in health and safety, says Oliver. Indeed, safety has really been developing into a career over the last few years, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. "Years ago, [safety] used to be a task.… It was never a profession as a standalone," says Oliver. "With it being in the media, being in panels and being recognized for the strength of character that it takes to protect people in the COVID epidemic, people see the value of health and safety as a profession; that it takes experience, skills, knowledge and a desire to make people safer and healthier." To build a safety community, says Oliver, "you've got to reap, and you've got to sow and you've got to attend to it. You've got to reach out and ask for help, but also offer help. The profession of health and safety is purely an intellectual one, and no one person has all the intellect to have all the answers. So, your network becomes the de facto tool for your success. You can't do it alone; don't expect to do it alone. And if you do, you're going to stumble." This echoes earlier points raised by Harris and Oliver on the value of a safety network. Oliver highlights this as a powerful lesson for young people getting into the safety profession; they need to learn to collaborate and not compete with each other, "that competitive nature might actually isolate them from that collaborative experience," she says. An invaluable tool for young professionals aiming to progress in the sector is mentorship. "What's interesting about mentorship is I think most people see it as the wise sage leading the new student, but what I'm discovering more and more as I'm getting to be that older person is that young people bring such new and innovative ideas, and they bring technology to the conversation and they see the world through a different lens," says Oliver. She adds that "there's so many new and creative things that are coming with the new generation into the profession that I'm finding that mentoring is a two-way street. I learned so much from the young people that work with me right now." Future challenges COVID has dominated the safety sector this year. Oliver tells us that the biggest challenges in the sector are still motivated by COVID. However, there's a silver lining in that "we recognize that safety isn't just safety, it's health and safety; that people's health matters just as much in the workplace as their physical safety does there," she says. "The pandemic has certainly introduced some of the biggest challenges that I have faced in my EHS career. One of the biggest ones that happened right at the beginning was [that], with so many employees quickly transitioning to a working- from-home environment, there was the need for some type of office ergonomic education," says Harris. Employee mental health was also a huge concern, she says, although she mentions that it is by no means a new risk factor. The difference, she says, is that "the pandemic has really highlighted the need for enhancements to corporate mental health programs and finding more ways to be creative and do frequent check-ins with employees." On a similar note, COVID has brought out a level of caring and compassion among workers. Oliver says she "would like to see built into a safety program better than it has been." Going into 2021, Harris points to ergonomics and mental health still being challenges for most of the year. Another thing we'll be seeing more and more of, she says, is COVID fatigue. To counter this, Harris says that "we need to find more ways to get creative with our communication, make them concise. We don't want to burn out our employees with COVID, but we want to make sure that they're still staying vigilant and protecting themselves and their families." Technology and digitalization will also be key in 2021, says Harris. This means more training to get people up to speed. Oliver says she has seen an incredible level of innovation this year, and she hopes that that pace and passion will not go away when COVID goes away. "The pandemic has really highlighted the need for enhancements to corporate mental health programs and finding more ways to be creative and do frequent check-ins with employees." Erika Harris, BASF Canada 2020 CSE AWARDS PANELS Hard hats and hand sanitizer How the construction sector is facing the pandemic technical aspects [into] which we put a lot of effort," says Verster. Practical safety is not something that must be overly complicated, he says. It's not something that you must set out to do or set out on the agenda immediately. It should be really simple and practical. The last building brick, says Verster, is that behavioural and cultural aspect. Verster says he starts every meeting by inviting people to recall a safety moment. This could be something at home or at work. This makes safety the conversation point and a point of reference when colleagues deal with each other. When you have those three building blocks, says Verster, safety becomes part of your culture and your Chemical safety Looking beyond WHMIS compliance COVID-19 and climate change How the utilities and electrical sector is facing modern challenges Climbing the ladder How to start a career in safety Safety heroes How to optimize your OHS culture

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