Category: OHS Events

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.

Celebrating the Past and Looking Forward: OHCOW Marks its 25th Anniversary

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Recently, I had the honour of celebrating the Occupational Health Clinics of Ontario Workers (OHCOW) 25th anniversary at their event Celebrating the Past and Looking Forward. Our organizations have had a long-standing history of collaborating and sharing information and resources with the common goal to help Ontario workers stay safe on the job. I truly believe the synergy of our organizations has served workers successfully over the years.

To show our appreciation of our 20 year affiliation, I presented OHCOW with a plaque recognizing our partnership, and shared some of my personal thoughts and reflections of their organization. I believe each clinician; pioneer and tireless workplace safety advocate at OHCOW have provided our country with an immense amount of value. I especially saw this when CCOHS hosted a delegation from China a few years ago. We introduced the group to the staff at OHCOW and after reviewing their operations, the delegates returned to Chongqing and built a workers’ health clinic inspired by what they saw at the OHCOW offices. Now, tens of thousands of workers are receiving clinical services and counseling for occupational issues as a result of the OHCOW model.

Another reason to celebrate OHCOW
The event marked the official launch of the Mental Injury Toolkit (MIT) and the Measure Workplace Stress App. This special project was a collaborative effort between OHCOW and CCOHS to build a new smartphone application that provides a set of tools for workers to measure their level of workplace stress. It will also correlate the worker response input, highlight issues for focus, and provide direction for obtaining more information.

Congratulations to OHCOW on 25 years of commitment and caring and making a difference in the quality of Ontario workers’ lives.

Steve Horvath, President and CEO at CCOHS and John Oudyk, Occupational Hygienist at OHCOW

Steve Horvath, President and CEO at CCOHS and John Oudyk, Occupational Hygienist at OHCOW

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.

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.

The Standard: One Year Later

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January 16, 2014 marked the first anniversary of the launch of the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the Standard). A media event was held in Toronto to recognize the progress to date and to encourage continued adoption of the Standard by workplaces across Canada. I was pleased to see Minister Leitch champion mental health by kicking off the event with a personal discussion of the need to remove the stigma and how adoption of the Standard can help in doing that.

At the ceremony I was heartened to see CCOHS featured in one of the videos showcasing organizations that are currently adopting the Standard. CCOHS has been promoting the holistic approach to workplace health and safety for many years, so we were greatly appreciative of having our own internal efforts to “practice what we preach” recognized on a national platform. In the video, Emma Nicolson, the lead of CCOHS’ Mental Health @ Work team, discussed how we have used the new Standard as a framework for implementing our own mental health strategy at our workplace.

I also had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion that was organized by the Mental Health Commission of Canada that included a number of key stakeholders and organizations promoting mental health. It was a dynamic discussion about enabling and encouraging workplaces to adopt the new Standard, and the various roles our organizations could play towards achieving that goal. I was pleased with the consensus that was established and the willingness to collaborate.

NAOSH Week 2012

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NAOSH WeekI am very pleased to be helping launch NAOSH Week 2012 at Centennial College on Monday, May 7th with our health and safety partners. This marks 16 years that employers, workers and governments across North America have taken the time to promote the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace.

The theme of NAOSH week this year is “Making it Work”. It reminds us that we all need to not only plan, but act. We need to constantly create awareness of these issues throughout our daily routines at work, at home and in our communities, and it is forums such as this that make this possible.

Our successes in achieving the goals of NAOSH week will result in eliminating fatalities, injuries and diseases from the workplace.

National Day of Mourning

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Day of Mourning: Remember & Renew

April 28th has been designated as the “National Day of Mourning” in Canada.  Since its recognition as an annual day of remembrance in 1985 by the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), and then becoming an official National observance by the passing of the Workers Mourning Day Act on 1991 by the federal government of Canada, April 28th has been a day of remembrance for those killed or injured on the job and a time of renewal of our commitment to accident and illness prevention.

It is a call to action – it is not only an opportunity to recognize and honour those that have been killed or injured on the job, but also to highlight the preventable nature of workplace accidents and occupational illnesses. It’s an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to the prevention of injury and illness and the active encouragement for all workplaces to adopt safety standards and programs to ensure that, at the end of every day, every worker returns home safe and healthy.

I hope everyone will take a moment on this solemn day to think of their fellow workers and consider how you can contribute to creating a workplace and community that is safe and supportive for all.