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.
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.
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.
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.
This is always an energizing time of year for me. With the advent of a new year before us, we are permitted to take a long breath and look ahead to what the future might hold for CCOHS in the coming year. This is our opportunity to build on the successes of the past year and to welcome new initiatives and directions for our organization.
Our focus in the past year was on collaboration, leadership and outreach. Building on these pillars will be the key to achieving our strategic goals in the coming year.
We have succeeded in significant collaborations with organizations and provinces throughout the year. Of recent note, CCOHS entered into an agreement with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). This partnership evolved from several key factors that, to me, define a successful collaboration. Aside from the fact that we both have a national scope and many common stakeholders, what is important to me is that both our organizations are focused on offering high quality solutions, and developing strong relationships with our client base. Our compatible competencies will create synergies between our organizations. And most importantly, we share a common set of values. Bonnie Rose, President of CSA Standards, and I share a vision of the critical role that prevention plays in the Canadian health and safety landscape.
It is with this same set of principles to finding value-creating collaborations that we also signed an MOU the past month with the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada. In discussions with the Institute’s president, Steve Mahoney, I know it will be another excellent opportunity for synergies between two organizations with a common purpose.
Common vision, shared values and complementary capacities comprise our formula for success and sustainability with our partners.
Aside from the snow on the ground, the other indicator to me that the holiday season is upon us is this annual occasion to share with everyone my reflections of CCOHS’ past year and to look ahead to the coming year.
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.
I was extremely pleased to be invited last week to speak at the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce – a large group of business leaders representing the Indian business and professional community here in Canada. The attendees, with a strong representation from small to medium-sized enterprises, demonstrated a concern for the well-being of their employees and were interested in the message of “promoting an injury-free workplace culture”.
Nurturing prevention into the workplace culture of an organization has become imperative in today’s competitive business environment, particularly as we come out of the global economic downturn, and as organizations struggle with changing societal expectations, demographic and cultural shifts, and the rise of work-life issues. This is the catalyst for leaders to create an engaged workforce committed to the success of their organization by understanding that health and safety must be an integral part of any business strategy and prevention is a fundamental component of economic growth. Prevention strategies must be recognized as necessary to business planning or they risk being marginalized and perceived as part of the problem instead of the solution in creating a robust and engaged workforce.
This evening was especially valuable for me during the networking session beforehand and the dialogue that occurred after my presentation. It was an opportunity for me to draw on my business experience as well as CCOHS knowledge to discuss with individual business leaders about their specific challenges with changing their workplace culture and to share experiences with organizational issues. It is also always critical for me to connect directly with our stakeholders and listen to their priorities so that we, as CCOHS, can become more effective in providing value and solutions to them towards the goal of eliminating injuries and illness in the workplace.