Category: On the Road

Engage and Adapt: Nunavut’s collaborative model for success

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Mosesie Lewis, Steve Horvath, and Lazarus Arreak

Mosesie Lewis, Steve Horvath, and Lazarus Arreak

“Don’t go hunting alone if you want to come back with something.”

Those words were shared with me by an Inuit elder in Iqaluit during a casual conversation about relations between the community, mining industry and government up in Nunavut.  For me it painted a vivid portrait of a perspective on the role of community, culture and the spirit of collaboration in balancing mutual goals and individual needs.

Their community involvement model is strategic, collaborative and opportunity-driven.  Their sense of cooperation is broad and inclusive built on common purpose and communication between the partners and the whole community.  A common understanding is sought before agreements are made that defines a systemic approach supported by tools, education and empowered by the Federal and Territorial governments.  Consequently, the local community and resource companies have both learned to engage and adapt for shared success – an effective framework for CCOHS’ own collaboration efforts across jurisdictional and sectorial lines.

My time up in Nunavut was brief, but educational and perspective-altering.  My conversations with people revealed their deep respect for the environment and its potential to provide for the future.  They have understood this for generations, and now it extends to the resources below the earth.  The community in Nunavut is resolute and united in a process that balances integrating economic considerations with Inuit values based on their sense of stewardship for, and belonging to, the land.

All in all, it was a reminder for me that it is only through collaboration and alignment of values that we will truly achieve collective success.


To Serve and Protect

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Steve Horvath, President and CEO at CCOHS

Steve Horvath, President and CEO at CCOHS

To Serve and Protect. This is a simple but powerful statement displayed on police cruisers, and yet I think I’ve taken it for granted – a realization I made while attending a conference hosted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP). Two hundred and fifty representatives from police forces across Canada were brought together for two days to focus on the advancement of mental health issues in policing such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – an amazing accomplishment that speaks to the priority the association has placed on this problem.

Officers are trained to not only provide support to their communities but to be compassionate and caring every day to individuals in despair. They understand their role and the expectations society places on them and I’m sure that doesn’t come without stressors; after all, the risks are high in this line of work. As I sat there listening to each speaker, one reoccurring thought kept plaguing me. This passion to protect the community needs to be turned inward and focused on mental health to help protect themselves and their fellow officers. After all, if we can’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others?

That’s why I believe that early intervention is the key to creating a mentally healthy workplace. Officers are best positioned to recognize early on-set of changes in behavior in their co-workers and to respond with encouragement and guidance to seek help before it deteriorates into a debilitating illness. This is the concept of creating a culture of caregivers in the workplace that I have spoken about. It is the ability to look at themselves and their peers with the same lens that they look at others.

Throughout the conference, there was recognition of the unique challenges facing police services, including not only the external factors associated with working in a high-risk line of work, engaging with the public and exposure to the inherent realities of being a first responder, but also the organizational and cultural aspect of policing. There was a sense of urgency, collective will and common sense of purpose because it is a shared crisis that, given particular circumstances, could overwhelm any of us.

Despite the fact that the aggregate of these factors makes this seem like a daunting task, I participated in discussions and witnessed a positive attitude that left me full of optimism that the police services across Canada have chosen to tackle this mental health issue head-on. There were certainly difficult and honest discussions from those sharing their personal struggles with work issues, but I am convinced we would not have had this conversation in such a broad forum only a couple of years ago. The fact that all these officers continue to not only contribute , but thrive in their careers after debilitating challenges is a testimony to how far police services have progressed in a short period of time. Peer support and leadership is the foundation of any successful anti-stigma campaign, leading to an early intervention and a mentally healthy workplace.

Openly confronting issues of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and stress shows real progress, leadership, and commitment to staff, as well as a willingness to adopt meaningful cultural change towards creating a climate of mutual support. I am convinced that organization wide resiliency can be found in the comradeship and support for which the policing community is known.

Corporate Leaders of Tomorrow: Inspiring Confidence

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Steve Horvath joins the judging panel at the Inter-Collegiate Business Competition (I.C.B.C.).

Steve Horvath joins the judging panel at the Inter-Collegiate Business Competition (I.C.B.C.).

Last week I was honoured to represent professional industry experts as a judge in the oldest and most prestigious undergraduate business case competition, the Inter-Collegiate Business Competition (I.C.B.C.) hosted by Queen’s University School of Business. This competition has become a global forum for the brightest minds from the top business schools across North America, Asia and Europe and provides the opportunity for students to demonstrate their analytical and presentation skills in front of judges, faculty and fellow students.

The quality of the presentations was exceptional, as was the dialogue with the students afterward. For me, this was the most personally fulfilling aspect – speaking with the participants in an informal setting about their vision and personal perspectives.
During the participants’ reception after the competition, I was seated at a table with 10 young business undergrads, all who happened to be women. They were engaging and interesting and I was struck by their energy and optimism. I found myself reflecting on how rarely we give our young business minds credit for their sense of the pulse of today’s global market realities. The students had a refreshing perspective on the complexities of tomorrow’s business environment, yet I couldn’t help thinking that the business community under-values the diversity of youth and their understanding of emerging markets and their role in influencing them. Clearly, despite all my years of experience, I was the true beneficiary of this free-wheeling, informal discussion. I couldn’t have been seated at a better table.

This whole experience opened my eyes in so many ways. I left Kingston feeling as I had seen the future through the eyes of the next generation of leaders. They painted a picture of tomorrow that is bright, full of potential and will rest in good hands. It’s refreshing to see that the foundation for future corporate excellence is strong and reliable.

I hope all of the participants left the competition with a sense of accomplishment and confidence in the value they provide in shaping the future. I know I did. And I hope I’m invited back again next year . . . I still have so much to learn.

Steve Horvath talks to business students.

Steve Horvath talks to business students.

A New Generation in Health and Safety

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International Youth CongressOne of the most meaningful events organized at the triennial World Congress on Health and Safety was the establishment of the first International Youth Congress. It was my honour to be involved with such a valuable initiative and to have the opportunity to introduce these young participants to the World Congress at the symposium I co-chaired and helped organize.

The youth were exposed to health and safety issues and principles through education and interactive exercises directed by Christopher Preuße of DGUV (German Social Accident Insurance) in Germany. For me, it was reassuring to dialogue with our future leaders and to hear about the issues that are moulding the way we will be responding to a new generation of concerns and expectations. Not only are their ideas shaped by their generation, but also by a factor that industry to date has failed to respond to – their diversity. Industry has categorized them all as “Gen Y” and assumed generalizations in addressing their needs. We must recognize that this generation preparing to enter the workforce is far more diverse than the present workforce. In fact, just amongst the group that we had attending the Youth Congress, were students from countries such as Azerbaijan, U.K. and Japan – all with different perspectives and experiences to share, but with a common goal of a better future for their peers.

The challenge to employers is recognizing the immense potential of this diversity and reassessing their “one size fits all” assumptions to occupational health and safety programs for new employees.


Some of the 42 delegates from around the world who attended the first International Youth Congress. From:

My interactions with this group of committed students left me reassured that the solutions to tomorrow’s problems lay within today’s youth. Giving them a forum to share their experiences with other youth from all parts of the world will be the catalyst for innovative change in the future. That is why I was pleased to hear commitment to hold a second International Youth Congress from all those involved.

Advancing Health and Safety in the Philippines

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Steve Horvath with Porfirio Mayo, First Secretary and Consul of the Philippine Embassy in Canada.

Steve Horvath with Porfirio Mayo, First Secretary and Consul of the Philippine Embassy in Canada.

It was my privilege to be invited this past week by Porfirio Mayo, First Secretary and Consul to Canada at the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa, for the celebration of the 116th anniversary of the independence of the Philippines.

It was not only a wonderful occasion to appreciate the culture of its people, but also an opportunity to discuss with Mr. Mayo ‎the expanding relationship between the Philippines’ Health and Safety Agency and CCOHS. Our products can play an active role in the advancement of prevention programs throughout Southeast Asia. We discussed our future potential and intention to formalize the relationship between our organizations, not only through CCOHS’s products, but also through the promotion of health and safety in the Republic through our affiliations with international agencies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and World Health Organization (WHO).

Also present was the Korean Ambassador to Canada, and we had a pleasant chat about the long-standing relationship between the Korean Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) and CCOHS. Korea will ‎be hosting the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) World Congress in 2015.

Congratulations to the Philippines on their milestone, and we look forward to further collaborations.

CCOHS Discusses Leadership with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore

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I applaud the commitment by the most senior government officials in Singapore for showing leadership and enabling a whole nation to achieve a common goal of eliminating injury and illness in the workplace through political engagement. It not only provides a lot of momentum, but also confidence to health and safety practitioners when progressive policies are promoted by all levels of government and supported by labour and industry.

Government, labour and employers were present at the Singapore Workplace Safety and Health Conference 2014 to promote and understand the challenges and were committed to make this happen.

I am impressed by the broad level of commitment demonstrated by world-class health and safety organizations like the Workplace Health and Safety Institute (WHSI) and the Workplace Safety and Health Council. Their support comes from clear and consistent leadership from the highest levels of the national government. During various times of the ASEAN-OSHNET meetings and the conference, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Senior Minister of State and Minister of Health and Manpower, and the Senior Parliamentary Secretary and Minister of Education and Manpower delivered addresses, while other senior Ministry officials were also in attendance. It is refreshing to see all of them speak of a singular vision for a Singapore without workplace injuries and illnesses and their support for the country’s “Vision Zero” action plan for achieving their goals.

In his opening remarks, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance for Singapore, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, acknowledged the challenge ahead but reaffirmed the government’s resolve in achieving the OSH goals of the nation. He spoke of the need to integrate worker health issues with workplace safety, and for industry to take a holistic approach to OSH if they were going to eliminate injuries and illnesses in Singaporean workplaces – a problem that is costing the country 3.2% of their GDP. Consequently, OSH prevention strategies are recognized as part of the overall growth strategy for the region. A trade deal to be completed within the year with all the other ASEAN countries will include common standards on health and safety that are based on global best practices.

Other Ministers reiterated the key concept of adopting a holistic approach to protecting the safety, health and well-being of employees. Hawazi Daipi, the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower and Education noted that with Singapore’s aging population and increasing life expectancy, all organizations have to put in place holistic intervention programs to ensure health and safety and a sustainable workforce.


With CCOHS recognized as a global leader whose expertise, infrastructure and capacities are viewed as true strengths, I was there to present evidence and data supporting the integration of health and safety with the business processes of an organization. It is always encouraging to see the enthusiasm that other countries show in learning about CCOHS’ experiences and approach to prevention programs. It is a competitiveness issue for organizations. For a robust management system to exist, you have to consider OSH as part of the normal decision-making process with all employees. If it is seen as a separate program, it will not result in a cultural shift in the workplace because it will not become part of the normal decision-making process of the organization and will be perceived by management as part of the problem instead of part of the solution. What is necessary is worker engagement through leading by example, communication, coaching and management commitment.

ILO Global OSH Network Steering Committee Initiative

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ILO Global OSH Network Steering Committee Initiative

I am going to have to start referring to these submissions as “Blogging from 30,000 ft.” as so many of my recent thoughts came in an airplane as I am returning energized from meetings with institutions with established histories of success in influencing health and safety direction and promoting positive change.

In this case, it is always an honour to be associated with any initiative from the International Labour Organization (ILO) on occupational health and safety, but it was particularly gratifying to be appointed to chair a steering committee of leaders representing all regions of the globe and oversee a stakeholder-driven process for a global prevention initiative.

We came together with a common vision of reforming the ILO OSH global network of institutions and professionals while recognizing the evolving internal and external environments and the need to establish a framework that is supportive of the strategic direction of the ILO. We have the opportunity to achieve something meaningful and sustainable to the benefit of the ILO network and workplaces everywhere.

We are relying on networks and partnerships with both individuals and institutions grounded in a common understanding of the critical role prevention plays in the OHS continuum. There is a mutual recognition that an institutionalized prevention program capacity and progressive OSH policies supported by enforcement systems are the foundations for regulating risks in all workplaces, and are integral to development agendas.

I believe knowledge enables prevention and bringing together leaders to define and support the ILO’s role in a global network active in disseminating timely and reliable OSH information is key to building sustainable OSH capacities at regional and national levels – particularly in low to middle income countries. This serves as an opportunity to establish a framework to harness the successes of informal networks, particularly community-based organizations that have brought about change at the local level, and leverage them at a global level for OSH awareness and prevention knowledge programs.

Our work continues following consensus on strategic direction and framework issues.

Premier’s Roundtable Meeting on Mental Health in the Workplace

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It was my privilege to have CCOHS invited to a roundtable discussion, chaired by Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, along with the ministers of health from the provinces and territories, to share experiences and perspectives on the issue of mental health in the workplace. Also present were senior executives from key stakeholder organizations representing employers, labour and NGOs. The willingness of the ministers to lead by example with these cooperative efforts, and to take a leadership role in this critical workplace issue, provides a framework for the success of a national initiative on mental health.

At the roundtable, I shared CCOHS’ first-hand experience as an employer implementing the Standard (the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace) in our own workplace. I also highlighted both the challenges and opportunities for workplaces across Canada, particularly small- to medium-sized organizations, based on our role as a solutions provider and promoter of the Standard. Presentations were also made by Mike Schwartz from Great-West Life, who presented some compelling data on the scope of mental health issues in Canadian workplaces, and George Cope of Bell Canada, who shared the successes of Bell’s “Let’s Talk” anti-stigma campaign.

The ministers were engaged throughout and receptive to the thoughts and recommendations from the various parties. Being able to bring together the different jurisdictions to look at opportunities to collaborate nationally and to leverage all the initiatives promoting workplace mental health makes this process transformational. I am confident that through these types of efforts we will build consensus across all jurisdictions, and that a national solution will be found.

Commitment to Go Beyond

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I’ve spent several days in Dresden, Germany assisting DGUV (German Social Accident Insurance) organize the Symposium on Education and Learning for the XXth World Congress on Safety and Health at Work. The World Congress occurs every three years and brings approximately 10,000 delegates from around the world to exchange ideas about occupational health and safety.

I am honoured to be a co-coordinator of one of the Symposia along with the Russian Federation and the DGUV, and am excited by the possibilities from working with such a committed group. The organizers at the DGUV were not only prepared to listen, but actively encouraged new ideas and looked for ways for us to go outside the boundaries.

CCOHS’ role is one of innovator and leader in our field. We are recognized for bringing a fresh perspective to the table when discussing change in organizational culture and needs, because we are strongly connected to the workplace and institutions through our collaborations and relationships. Thus, we are able to adapt the delivery of the message of prevention to the new realities of our stakeholders.

These were long days and late nights that I believe would not have occurred had we simply remained with the old standard of providing a forum for exchanging technical information with speeches and workshops. We had an enthusiastic group willing to go beyond convention in order to get a meaningful message across and make a clear impact on workplaces. CCOHS has made a commitment to achieving something transformational, something sustainable that will be a catalyst for change in all workplaces. We have always promoted a vision of occupational health and safety that is inclusive and embraces change in response to the evolving work environment. The DGUV has a similar vision for the World Congress in Frankfurt. It will go beyond the boundaries to provide solutions, promote dialogue and be inspirational. We share this common vision, and that is why I was prepared to commit this kind of time and energy to help make this a success – it is important and will make a difference in the workplace.

On the Road to Safety

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During the past two weeks, it has been my privilege to connect with several diverse groups that represent the ever widening scope of occupational health and safety and prevention in Canada. It is always heartening to hear and share in the accomplishments of other organizations, and to understand how CCOHS can actively contribute to their successes. In this case, the organizations included the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), Parachute Canada’s Symposium, the ILO/CIS Network, and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers (CSSE).

First, I spoke with ESFI about CCOHS’s view of electrical safety issues from a national perspective, what the statistics are telling us, and the unique nature of the electrical industry, which has seen increases in injury rates. Interestingly, Canadian statistics show that the vast majority of injuries to electrical workers are not related to shock or electricity, whereas the majority of electricity-related injuries and fatalities occur to non-electrical personnel. Addressing these statistics was a great source of discussion, as well as the steps towards a culture of prevention of these injuries.

My workshop presentation at the Parachute Canada Symposium was an opportunity for me to hear first-hand not only about the challenges faced by groups dealing with community-based safety and health issues, but also the initiatives they have adopted to cope with these challenges. At the same time, CCOHS was able to provide a workplace perspective on how community and domestic issues are increasingly intertwined with people’s work lives. Again, some prevention strategies were shared.

My meeting with CSSE in Edmonton was a very open and frank discussion about new issues facing the safety profession and some progressive solutions to address both the legacy issues that continue to impact injury rates, and the new generation of hazards requiring our attention. It was also an opportunity to discuss Alberta statistics against national and other provincial numbers, dealing with these issues from the perspective of a clear leadership and communication strategy, and the integration of prevention principles with business planning processes.