This is just one of many questions Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) consultants are fielding as registration for the 2013 Safety Group begins. WSPS consultant and Safety Group chapter lead Janet Bewers has her own take on the question, but first, more on the program itself.
WSPS's Safety Group helps active members improve their safety performance, lower costs, and earn Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) rebates through networking meetings and one-on-one access to WSPS consultants.
In 2010, Safety Group members of WSPS's manufacturing sector cut their overall lost-time injury rate by 17%, and their severity rate by 22%. WSPS’s service sector achieved even stronger results: 21% and 27%, respectively. In the process, successful firms also shared in a collective rebate of up to 6% of the group’s WSIB premiums.
Firms participate for a year at a time. Representatives attend up to five networking meetings, and at the first meeting select five health and safety topics, or "elements," to work on over the course of the year. After five years, participating firms will have established or fine-tuned a comprehensive health and safety program fully aligned with their specific needs and legislative requirements.
"As a health and safety professional," says Brenda Vrooman, a WSPS consultant and colleague of Janet Bewers, "I think the Safety Group makes sense for any firm, regardless of its performance. If you don't have a program, it will help you put one in place slowly but surely, and if you already have something, it will help you benchmark it to make sure what you have is current, up to date, and continually improving."
Vrooman has led a Safety Group chapter in Eastern Ontario for a number of years, and in this time has helped many firms improve their health and safety performance. "What I love most is hearing members rave about how the program is helping them build a health and safety culture. For me, culture is the be all and end all. Having everyone in your workplace buy in to health and safety, from senior management down to the front line workers, practically guarantees success no matter how you measure it."
That is, once you’ve joined. Vrooman and Bewers recognize that, for firms new to the Safety Group concept, joining sometimes requires a leap of faith. “Not in the program itself,” says Bewers, “because the premise is very clear: we help you set specific goals, facilitate meetings in which members learn from each other and guest speakers, supply tools and other resources, and provide one-on-one coaching.
“The big issue for many prospective members is primarily about fit, logistics, and the investment required,” continues Bewers. “People are being more pragmatic about spending discretionary resources, especially their time. We all are. There’s no question the Safety Group experience will give members a return on investment. But first you have to make the investment.”
Here's a sampling of questions that Bewers regularly addresses with potential Safety Group members.
I don't have a lot of employees. Is this a good fit for my business? “Regardless of the size of your business,” says Bewers, “participating in WSPS’s Safety Group can help your business achieve what’s required of it under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations. It’s a very simple way for you to accomplish what should be happening already, in a collaborative way with your own peers and individually with the chapter leads. The leads are all consultants first and foremost. We have expertise to share.”
I’m dealing with so much already. I’m not sure I can take on one more thing. “I completely understand this. The program has been set up so that you can work on bite-sized pieces at a time. And besides, you set your own priorities in terms of what elements to work on. Basically, you’re only working on things that are important to your business.”
Will I have to travel very far to get to a meeting? “Probably not, depending on where you’re located. I realize that extra time needed for travel can be an issue for some people, but you’re the only one who can decide whether it’s worth it. In my chapter, most members have just a short distance to travel, but I have one member who drives all the way down from North Bay, and another who comes from Chatham.”
I have responsibility for health and safety, but I'm really more of a production person. Will I be able to keep up with the other members? “Safety Group members come from everywhere and have all levels of health and safety expertise, and each one brings something to the meetings. Often it starts with just asking a question that gets a discussion rolling. Remember that the Safety Group is there for you. If you’re facing a particular challenge at work, chances are someone else is too, or has already dealt with it. We have sample tools and resources for almost everything.”
What if I decide it's not working for me? “If you give it a fair try and still feel this way, then I would encourage you to at least continue coming to meetings so that you can listen to our guest speakers and continue collaborating with your peers. Networking offers so many benefits.”
What guarantee is there that I will get anything out of this? “Safety Group provides you with resources - tools and the expertise of WSPS consultants and the other participants in your chapter - so that you can improve safety. We give you what you need to get going, but you ultimately determine how much you get out of belonging to a Safety Group chapter.
“Here’s my personal guarantee, and I’m sure it’s the same for all WSPS chapter leads. I will ensure our meetings are dynamic and meaningful, so that you get as much out of them as you can. I will also coach and mentor you between meetings. My commitment to your success doesn’t stop the minute a meeting ends. I’m available to you all year long. All the chapter leads are. Show us a little bit of interest, and we’ll meet you more than half way.”
Learn more online about WSPS's Safety Group. While onsite, watch an information webinar.
Update for Firms with 5 or More Years with a Safety Group
On July 5, 2012 the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) announced an important update on prevention system activities as they pertain to the Safety Groups Program. The WSIB Board of Directors has directed that
Safety Group firms currently at or exceeding five years of participation will be extended for one year
New sponsors and employers will be considered for entry into the 2013 Safety Groups Program based on current entry criteria
The WSIB is directed to review the program with the Chief Prevention Officer and provide a recommendation to the Board of Directors on or before April 30, 2013 as to whether to continue the program.
A copy of the full announcement can be found on the WSIB website.