Prevention system leaders weigh in on the evolution of occupational health and safety in 2013

Dec 04, 2013

2013 achievementsIn anticipation of the year's end, WSPS Network News asked key partners in Ontario's prevention system to share with readers key accomplishments and developments in 2013. Their responses appear below.

Our intent is to draw attention to new developments and related resources, such as the just published regulation on mandatory awareness training, and identify new opportunities for readers to boost health and safety performance, such as research from the Institute for Work & Health and CSA's new online OHS Community.

Contributors include the following:

  • George Gritziotis, Ministry of Labour
  • Elizabeth Mills, WSPS
  • Dr. Cameron Mustard, Institute for Work & Health
  • Beth Potter, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario
  • Bonnie Rose, Canadian Standards Association

Their combined contributions reveal that

  1. health and safety is an evolutionary process. For instance, several contributors highlighted progress in
    • ongoing implementation of recommendations made by an expert advisory panel appointed by the minister of labour to conduct a comprehensive review of Ontario's occupational health and safety system. The panel submitted 46 recommendations in 2010. All were accepted by the minister. Many have already been implemented, and the rest are at various stages of completion.
    • recognizing and responding to key workplace hazards. Prime example, CSA and BNQ's new national standard on psychological heath and safety, launched in February.
  2. information is essential to change. In its contribution, the Institute for Work & Health reports on new research that will help policy makers, service providers and workplaces better respond to chronic and emerging issues.
  3. change in Ontario is a consultative process. Whether in the workplace or other arenas, consultation gives stakeholders a chance to share their views, broaden our understanding of emerging issues, and help develop strategies for change and improvement.

 

By George Gritziotis, Chief Prevention Officer, Ontario Ministry of Labour

2013 saw great progress in the health and safety system in Ontario. Together with our partners, our stakeholders and the public, we continue to introduce legislative and regulatory change to enhance the Occupational Health and Safety Act, raise awareness through effective education and outreach, establish and improve partnerships, and promote a culture change in Ontario workplaces.

Everyone has an interest in workplace health and safety. Any time there is an injury or a fatality, it takes a toll - not only on workers and their families, but also on economic productivity and the social fabric of the province. Every worker can, and should, come home safe and sound at the end of the workday.

We have made regulatory change to make workplaces safer. The new health and safety awareness training, which will come into effect on July 1, 2014, requires mandatory health and safety awareness training for every supervisor and worker covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Ministry of Labour has, and will continue throughout 2014, to develop a host of free resources to help employers comply and for workers to understand their rights.

Throughout 2013, the Ministry of Labour has seen an unprecedented uptake of materials made available in printed and online formats. This demand for information and training materials is evidence that many employers and workers see that it makes sense to "Think Safety." We are so thrilled to see this culture shift in Ontario workplaces and the ministry, along with its partners, will continue to ensure that useful health and safety resources are made available and accessible to Ontario workplaces.

We are also working to develop a working-at-heights training program standard and focusing on high risks areas within the workplace. The working-at-heights program standard will provide workers who may be exposed to the hazard of falling from heights with adequate knowledge about fall hazards as well as general safety practices for working safely, and for workers who use personal fall protection equipment there will be sufficient knowledge about its purpose and use.

Finally, we will soon be releasing the province's first occupational health and safety strategy. This strategy will guide and communicate the ministry's health and safety vision, goals and priorities. This strategy will reflect a critical step forward in transforming a set of diverse occupational health and safety organizations into a more closely interconnected system that works better, together. This strategy will have a significant positive impact on occupational health and safety throughout Ontario and we look forward to its release in the very near future.

We are not making this progress on our own, however. The progress we saw in 2013 was due, in large part, to the input and advice we have received from the Prevention Council, our system partners, both external and internal. We recognize the strong positive contributions of the voices who continue to work with us and be part of our mission to prevent occupational injuries and accidents in Ontario. Our work was truly a collaborative effort.

We look forward to next year and further delivering the prevention mandate and supporting both business and workers to enhance Ontario's health and safety performance in 2014.

 

By Elizabeth Mills, President and CEO, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services

In 2013, WSPS and our customers, volunteers and system partners engaged in critical conversations about the future of health and safety in the province, we shared insights and expertise to avail new offerings where they are needed most, and we celebrated important changes to health and safety in our workplaces.

Making sure the voices of our customers and stakeholders were heard in critical conversations

In April, the Advisory Committees of WSPS worked together, outside of their work with WSPS, to prepare a submission in response to the WSIB Rate Framework Consultation. And, they were invited to present in-person to Douglas Stanley1 at a public hearing. They came together to ensure that the voices of businesses large, medium and small in the agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors were heard in this important conversation.

And, a short while later, the WSPS Board of Directors, nine Advisory Committees, Volunteer Council and Volunteers participated in the development of a submission on the Discussion Paper to Develop an Integrated Occupational Health and Safety Strategy. More than 150 organizations participated in various ways - face-to-face facilitated meetings, one-on-one interviews, group surveys, and a facilitated webinar to communicate their vision of a transformed and aligned system. Their collective feedback was used to formulate 24 recommendations related to transformation, alignment and research.

These were just two of many prevention system consultations that WSPS staff, volunteers and customers engaged in over the past 12 months.

Sharing insight and expertise to help you create healthy, safe and growing businesses

WSPS launched three new volunteer programs to enable us to deepen our relationships in the communities we serve.

  1. A Speakers Bureau will avail community organizations of a roster of volunteer speakers that have health and safety subject matter expertise to share.
  2. A Coaching and Mentoring program will provide employers and employees with access to the experience and insight of volunteers in one-to-one and one-to-many forums.
  3. A Community Roundtable program will bring volunteers, WSPS staff, local employers, workers, and community leaders together to identify the unique priorities and issues of each community.

The first series of roundtables took place this fall. In communities across Ontario, participants shared their perspectives in a unique "totem pole" exercise aimed at ensuring that WSPS is using our resources effectively in making each unique community healthier and safer.

WSPS advisory committee volunteers focused their attention on the development of a series of products designed specifically to assist small-to-medium sized businesses and vulnerable workers across all sub-sectors. Products include orientation tools, tips for keeping aging workers healthy and safe, supervisor resources, safety posters and more. They will be available at no additional cost on the WSPS website in 2014. (Watch for more on these resources in upcoming issues of WSPS Network News).

And, in tandem with all of this work, WSPS staff members engaged in a number of prevention system working groups to ensure we are progressing our goals of helping our customers grow, simplifying your interactions with the prevention system, and, most of all, helping you create healthier and safer workplaces.

2013 was a watershed year in workplace health and safety

We also celebrated two major announcements that will have a profound impact on health and safety in the province of Ontario.

In January, the Mental Health Commission of Canada launched the national standard for psychological health and safety - a critical step toward mental illness prevention and mental health promotion in the workplace.

And, most recently, the Minister of Labour announced the new Occupational Health and Safety Awareness Training regulation, which mandates basic occupational health and safety awareness training for all workers and supervisors.

The events and activities of the past year have given WSPS tremendous opportunity to deepen our understanding of what our customers need today and in the future in order to maintain healthy, safe and growing businesses.

We're looking forward to what 2014 will bring!

 

By Dr. Cameron Mustard, President & Senior Scientist, Institute for Work & Health

The focus of prevention efforts in 2013 among Ontario's health and safety system partners led to real progress in implementing the 2010 recommendations of the Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety. Research from the not-for profit Institute for Work & Health contributed in a number of key areas.

Developing leading indicators

One of the most exciting developments in 2013 was the progress made in identifying leading indicators - organizational and management measures used by workplaces and system partners to gauge and improve health and safety performance before injuries and illnesses occur. The panel's recommendations recognized both the need for leading indicators and the complexity surrounding their development.

Much of the progress came through the Ontario Leading Indicators Project (OLIP), in which IWH is partnering with WSPS and other health and safety associations to assess five different potential leading indicator tools. The tools measure things like safety culture, safety climate, management systems, and more. So far, about 1,800 Ontario workplaces have completed surveys as part of this project.

The earliest participants received benchmark reports this fall. These reports let organizations know the health and safety areas in which they're doing well, and where they need improvement - scoring everything from their policies and practices to training and worker participation.

Meanwhile, work is ongoing to determine which of the five tools in the OLIP survey are the most helpful measures of organizational health and safety performance. We already know that one of the tools in the study, the eight-item Organizational Performance Metric (OPM), has been found to correlate with workers' compensation claims in Ontario and New Brunswick. Watch for more results in 2014.

Improving health and safety training

Important strides were also made in 2013 in health and safety training, a key focus of the panel's recommendations for improvement. Chief among these was a new regulation last month from the Ontario Ministry of Labour that mandates health and safety awareness training for all workers and supervisors. The regulation comes into effect in July 2014.

In its November announcement of the regulation, the ministry noted that "new and young workers are three times more likely to be injured in the first month of their employment than more experienced workers." This stems from an institute finding that was confirmed once again in a study published earlier this year: over a 10-year period, risk of work injury for workers with shorter job tenure has consistently remained higher compared to those employed at a job for more than one year. Risk is particularly elevated among those in the first month on the job, with over three times the risk of a lost-time injury as workers with over a year's job experience.

Another important step forward in health and safety training was the development of an evidence-based online ergonomics program, created by IWH and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

A pilot of the program at CAMH showed workers who took the online training increased their knowledge about the risks of computer work, made appropriate changes to the set-up of their workstations, improved their working postures, and experienced less pain and/or discomfort at the end of their workday. Now, IWH is working with health and safety associations in Ontario to make the training available online next year.

Protecting the vulnerable

Vulnerable workers - including young workers, newcomers, older workers, those new to their job, temp agency workers and the precariously employed - were a key focus of the panel report and remained a priority for IWH and Ontario's prevention system in 2013.

A number of IWH research projects in 2013 contributed valuable findings in this area that can help workplaces protect these workers while sustaining or even improving business performance. For example, research has shown:

  • work-related heat illnesses in Ontario spike over groups of days and disproportionately affect those on the job less than two months, including young people;

  • about 12% of work injuries experienced by women and 6% of work injuries experienced by men in Ontario can be attributed to the higher risk of work injury during non-traditional working hours (e.g. during evening, night and early morning shift work); and

  • chronic conditions common in older age, such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes, are strongly associated with people being out of the workforce, particularly when they have more than one of these conditions.

The Institute is also close to completing a framework to better understand the factors that contribute to work injury vulnerability. In 2013, IWH explored the contribution of not only worker-related factors (awareness, empowerment), but also workplace-related factors (policies, practices, hazards). A final framework is expected next year. This broadened framework will help identify issues that could be the focus of efforts to protect vulnerable workers.

 

By Beth Potter, President and CEO of TIAO

The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) supports tourism businesses and workers across Ontario, with thousands relying on tourism for their livelihood. Ontario has more than 149,000 tourism industry businesses, representing 17% of all businesses in Ontario. Of the more than 600,000 direct and indirect tourism related jobs, one in four is held by a young person.

It was not too long ago when workplace injuries and lost time were seen as a cost of doing business. Today, however, health and safety is recognized as playing a far more significant role in the workplace as a driver of productivity and increased employee engagement. Yet there remains much that can be done in order to ensure an even safer environment for employees in the tourism industry.

Tourism operators, like most business owners, have to deal with a long list of government regulations as they go about their business. At TIAO, we encourage business owners to share best practices and learn from each other as a way of streamlining the application of these regulations. Health and safety is no different.

As we head into 2014, TIAO is working with the industry on workforce development issues, including a focus on recruitment and retention efforts. As an industry, we are trying to encourage young workers, new Canadians, second careers, and aboriginal people to consider tourism as a career path. By including workplace health and safety training in their education and skills development, we are giving potential employees an edge.

As the highest employer of young people in the province, tourism operators often deal with these realities:

  • high employee turnover
  • high training costs
  • unpredictable environment
  • increasing last minute bookings
  • increasing number of regulatory compliance issues.

By educating young people and their teachers on the value of health and safety training as a way to "stand out from the crowd," we cannot only help young people secure jobs in the tourism industry, but help employers as well reduce their training costs at the same time.

On the other side of the coin, TIAO will also be working to educate tourism employers on their new obligation to ensure that workers and supervisors have completed a basic health and safety awareness training program by July 1, 2014.

At TIAO, we look forward to working with WSPS and our members to help increase the level of dialogue between tourism employers and employees with respect to health and safety awareness.

 

By Bonnie Rose, President, Standards, CSA Group

As a member-based standards development organization, CSA Group relies on the contributions and diverse perspectives of a variety of stakeholders to develop relevant standards that help make workers and workplaces safer. Our nearly 8,000 volunteer committee members are our most valuable resource, and we continue to make efforts to reinvigorate, revitalize and grow our membership.

One example is our recently launched online presence, CSA Communities. This free-to-join, collaborative platform enables members and other stakeholders to connect, share information and contribute to discussions around standards development. The first five public communities were launched in March 2013: OHS, Electrical, Fuel Burning, Nuclear and Sustainability; Oil and Gas and Health Care communities will launch in early 2014. To date nearly 15,000 users have joined our communities, with close to half coming from outside our traditional committee membership base.

Tapping into CSA Group's broad scope of activity, our communities have the potential to transform communications by breaking down silos and providing members with the opportunity to share information and locate expertise across sectors and issues.

Our most popular community today is the OHS Community, which features a lively discussion forum where participants from a range of backgrounds and experiences can share knowledge and locate specific expertise. In addition, the OHS Community provides updated information on

  • new standards and training courses
  • opportunities to participate in new standards projects
  • standards available for public review and comment
  • upcoming OHS-focused events
  • current research, articles and whitepapers
  • testing and certification information for personal protective equipment.

Our OHS Community is also the new home for our updated View Access for OHS Standards program. View Access provides free, easy-to-search access to the CSA Group standards referenced in OHS regulations as well as the most current editions. Developed in collaboration with government agencies responsible for occupational health and safety across Canada, OHS View Access has already helped over 50,000 users and organizations fulfill compliance requirements by providing up-to-date information on standards that can prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace. By hosting View Access in our OHS Community, we believe even more organizations will benefit from access to this valuable information.

Lastly, our communities platform hosts our newly-enhanced "Members' Only" committee areas, where over 800 expert members from more than 60 OHS technical committees can work better, faster and more efficiently to produce timely and relevant standards aimed at decreasing the number of work-related injuries and deaths.

CSA Communities are geared toward improving our members' experience, as well as attracting additional perspectives and, ultimately, new members to participate in the important work of developing safety and performance standards. In particular, the members of our OHS Community and various technical committees are truly making a difference in Canadian workplaces… and you can too. I invite you to join the discussions on our communities and discover how to help improve health and safety in your organization; and we welcome your questions and suggestions for new and updated health and safety-related standards and services to help create safer workplaces.

 

Footnote

1 Douglas Stanley was engaged by the WSIB as a special advisor responsible for producing a consultation paper on employer classification and rate setting framework reform, a stakeholder consultation plan, and a final report and recommendations. Stanley has been a law professor, deputy minister of labour in New Brunswick, and an arbitrator and mediator in Ontario, during which he served as a part-time vice-chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Tribunal.