I have had the opportunity to connect with many health and safety professionals at this year’s AIHce conference in Montreal, Québec. “La Belle Provence” has served as a wonderful backdrop to poignant discussions, networking, and information exchanges which promote greater effectiveness amongst all of us.
Despite the value these events provide and given our current economic climate, it appears that organizations have pared back their commitment of resources to these technical and professional events – all at a time that our challenges are only increasing – and some attendees expressed to me their concerns that staff professional development will lag behind the rest of the world without attendance at events like these.
I also observed the proportion of professionals that are near retirement age; I’m not sure I stood in any small gathering where there wasn’t someone discussing retirement. This potential loss of expertise and experience should be of concern to all in the industry. The high watermark of hiring in the U.S. at OSHA, according to David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labour, was in the 70s. These professionals have progressed in their careers and are now preparing to retire, giving us limited time for succession planning and knowledge transfer.
We need to start looking forward now to address these pressing issues.
The Canadian launch of The North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week in Vancouver was a tremendous success, with a large turnout from numerous organizations and great support from the local community. CCOHS has been a long-standing partner in NAOSH Week activities across the country, so it was my honour to acknowledge the hard work of the BC NAOSH Week Committee, as well as the other official partners – the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, the American Society of Safety Engineers, the Labour Program of Human Resources and Social Development Canada, and Threads of Life – who all contributed to the success of the launch and the overall Week.
The event provided an opportunity for all to re-dedicate ourselves to the principles of prevention and to reaffirm our common goal: the elimination of occupational injury and illness in North America.
The Canadian NAOSH launch event was again kicked-off by Minister Lisa Raitt, who provided support and encouragement for safety initiatives across the country, and included a speech from Walter Gretzky, who shared his personal experience with an occupational injury.
I must again commend the BC NAOSH Week Committee for an excellent 2013 launch of NAOSH week.
The previous week, I had the privilege of doing what I consider one of the most enjoyable aspects of being the president of CCOHS – presenting the Dick Martin scholarship to a young, deserving student on the cusp of a promising career in occupational health and safety.
I would also extend my appreciation to Andre Dufresne, Director of the program, and Max Debia, assistant professor, for their hospitality and the guided tour of their facility. It was an opportunity to meet the teaching staff and students and hear from them about their program. They can all take a great deal of pride in the department and facilities that they have developed in just a few short years.
From left to right: Maureen Shaw, Steve Horvath, Shirley Hickman, and Julian Hughes (Executive Director of the Business Leaders’ Health & Safety Forum in New Zealand).
I was disappointed that I could not attend the Hamilton Steps for Life walk in support of Threads of Life as I was in Vancouver for meetings. However, it provided me the opportunity to participate in the Burnaby, BC event and to walk alongside Shirley Hickman, founder of Threads of Life, and Maureen Shaw, who was responsible for the original Steps for Life walk in Toronto. I was heartened to see how this movement has been embraced by communities right across the country.
All Threads of Life volunteers are committed to helping families who have suffered tragedies in their lives and freely give their time to support the organization.
This year, the Steps for Life walk was held in 32 communities across Canada. Even smaller communities like Lethbridge had 1200 participants and raised $60,000.
Congratulations and thank you to every person who participated and volunteered.
April 28th is the National Day of Mourning, a day on which we stop to honour those colleagues in our workplaces that have suffered a fatality or serious injury at work and their families, who have to carry the burden of the loss. But this day is about much more than mourning our losses. It also presents an opportunity to pause and reflect on what we all can do now, and in the future, to prevent workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses. On this solemn occasion, let us rededicate ourselves to not only working safely, but also to creating a culture of prevention throughout our workplaces that makes an unsafe environment socially unacceptable and creates a collective focus for improvement.
We at CCOHS have dedicated ourselves to supporting the vision of eliminating workplace injuries and illnesses so that every worker returns home healthy and safe every day. We must continue to be ever vigilant. This is a day that we all can use to devote ourselves to the fundamental principle of caring for our fellow human beings and ensuring we never have to mourn a loss in our workplace again.
Celebrating the CCOHS Disc Information Service, which ran from 1987 – 2013
CCOHS surpassed a significant milestone in its technological history as it celebrated the last shipment of the MSDS DVD this past week. It represented our transition to a new era of technological development – recognition that Canadians are accessing information differently and we have to respond proactively with innovation.
Our discs were at the forefront of technology when CCOHS first released them in 1987. In fact, we offered CD-ROM readers for lease or purchase with our CD products, in response to clients who did not have the necessary technology to access the information on the discs. Now, we are again incorporating current and emerging technologies and innovation with online versions of our databases and other programs, progressive web portals, downloadable versions of packages for clients with inconsistent internet service, social media tools, and mobile apps.
These apps, along with mobile accessible versions of our services, will provide our stakeholders with additional options when it comes to the retrieval of OSH information. Our products need to be accurate, current and easily accessible to all – and our ability to anticipate and embrace technological trends is critical to ensuring that this continues to happen.
I am pleased to welcome three new members to our CCOHS Council of Governors. Sari Sairanen (CAW), Stephen Mansell (Government of Nunavut) and Helder Botelho (AOC Resins) will be attending their first official Council meeting in March. They are an accomplished group that will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our Council and I look forward to relying on their valued input as they help us meet the challenges ahead.
The new Council members are replacing three long-time members who have completed their terms. CCOHS extends its appreciation and bids a fond farewell to Nancy Hutchinson (USW), Jean Dalton (Dofasco-Arcelor Mittal) and Stuart MacLean (WCB Nova Scotia). We are grateful for their years of service and contribution toward our success as a global leader in the prevention of occupational injury and illness.
New Council of Governors members:
Sari Sairanen is the Director of Health and Safety at the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union. She has held various positions in the health and safety and labour relations sectors of the CAW, including Bargaining Committee Representative; Vice-President, Western Region; and Co-Chair of the Joint Health and Safety Committee.
Stephen Mansell is currently Director of Policy and Planning at the Department of Justice for the Government of Nunavut a former City Councillor of the city of Iqaluit and a prominent lawyer with extensive experience serving the community in Northern Canada
Helder Botelho is a Plant Manager at AOC Resins and Coatings in Guelph, Ontario. He is a former Chair of the Board of the Industrial Accident and Prevention Association and a current member of the Canadian Education and Training Commission.
This has been a watershed year for the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). We have been cultivating relationships across the country with a large cross-section of industries, OSH organizations and institutions. We have leveraged these relationships into mutually beneficial collaborations that have expanded our product offerings, accessed new markets, and increased our recognition factor across Canada.
I take a look back with great pride in our success from all of our business units. We have had an extremely successful national Forum that highlighted our ability to draw together representatives from a cross-section of groups to dialogue on solutions that affect all Canadians. Collaborations with groups such as CARMHA, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Carex Canada, NIDMAR, VuBiz, Institute on Gender and Health (IGH), ILO and High Point Wellness have resulted in new programs and products that have introduced CCOHS to new stakeholders and have increased the profile of the prevention of occupational injury and illness across all jurisdictions. We have also taken a leadership role in the communication of federal GHS legislation, mental health standards, and initiatives for vulnerable workers, and making OSH programs accessible to small and medium sized enterprises and remote regions.
But, my greatest sense of pride is reserved for our leadership team and staff for their dedication and ability to adapt to evolving internal changes and a constantly shifting external environment. It is our adaptive capacity and nimble decision-making that have come to define our organization and serve as the platform for all our successes.
My best wishes to everyone for a joyful holiday season and a Happy New Year.
This week, CCOHS had a successful conclusion to the first phase of our most recent project in China. The project is directed at policy development and implementation of legal protection for the psychological health and safety in the workplace of migrant labourers in Chongqing. CCOHS’s representative, Dr. Abeytunga, met with a large group of local and state government representatives in Chongqing. Also present at the meeting was a senior official from the central government who came to lend his support to our project and stated that the success of this was “very important to him.” I was extremely pleased to hear this from Abey, as were the Chinese officials who were present, as it served as strong affirmation of the work we are doing.
Members of the Chongqinq delegation visit with CCOHS in December.
Several factors led to our working with the local Chinese government on this project. First, in 2012 the State Council enacted a special regulation requiring employers “to take preventative measures against sexual harassment.” This marked a shift in the focus of Chinese OHS labour laws and regulations from strictly the protection of physical health to the protection of mental health. Secondly, there are almost nine million migrant labourers within Chongqing municipality, and they constitute an integral part of the labour force in Chongqing City. Unfortunately, a series of suicides of migrant workers in a foundry in Shenzhen in 2010 underscored the importance of addressing mental health issues among the new generation of migrant workers in order to prevent similar tragedies.
Workplace violence, harassment and bullying, the pressure to work long hours and disrespect towards workers all contribute to the mental health of migrant labourers. It’s imperative to establish local laws and regulations to ensure employers promote and protect the mental health of migrant workers, so that we can better their overall workplace health and safety.
I am at the 50th Annual meeting of the collaborating centres of the International Labour Organization (ILO). CCOHS is one of those collaborating centres, with 60 member countries represented here.
Steve Horvath, far right, presenting at the meeting.
I led off the meeting with a summary of initiatives and discussions in the last year.
There has been a fundamental recognition of the impact of changing technology and environment on the structure and strategy of the collaborating network within the ILO. I presented to the ILO the feedback from the ILO collaborating centres’ input to date on the re-focus of the ILO strategy on occupational health and safety systems, programs and products.
I am committed to the framework of a network of collaborating centres – but it must be adaptive and responsive to present realities. We have to shift our focus regularly and ask whether we are being effective as an organization in our initiatives and able to demonstrate progress. In this context, CCOHS is committed to working within the network towards a needs-based approach and to support the mobilization of available expertise and products.
The second day of meetings of the ILO network began with my being voted to chair their “Knowledge and Information Sharing Tools” group.
These are always lively discussions that highlight the opportunity to share established solutions and resources. This dialogue underscores the stark differences between the developing and developed countries, but, for me, the even greater issue is the significant commonality in challenges between all countries. Everyone is struggling with diminishing resources, increasing needs, accessing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and training of vulnerable or migrant workers – to name a few.
There is a compelling need created by the new environment for collaboration and the exchange of expertise to ensure we meet our common goals. These networks have to be built on a platform of reciprocal relationships, where resources are exchanged freely to the benefit of all.
I am looking forward to working collaboratively within these networks to meet the challenges that lay ahead.