I have had the opportunity to connect with many health and safety professionals at this year’s AIHce conference in Montreal, Québec. “La Belle Province” 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.