“To be honest,” says Krista Schmid, a former member of Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS)'s Safety Group, “I joined the group primarily because of the potential rebate. This was back when the Safety Groups program was relatively new.
"But you're not going to quote me on this, are you?"
Schmid is concerned on two counts. First, she realized soon after joining that the potential rebate was just one of several key benefits. She was quickly able to draw on other members' experiences and best practices to address her own challenges. Among them, how to get greater commitment to safety from all parties in her workplace.
Second, Schmid is now a WSPS consultant and facilitates a Safety Group chapter - the person at the front of the room, so to speak, not the person sitting next to you. As a consultant, injury prevention is her top priority.
About the program
Safety Groups is a performance-based incentive program developed by Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). It offers participating firms an opportunity to receive rebates on their WSIB premiums if they collectively reduce their injury frequency and severity rates.
Each participating firm tackles five key elements of a safety program over the course of a calendar year. Safety Group sponsors such as WSPS hold five meetings during the year, of which the firm must attend at least three. During the meetings, members discuss challenges they're facing, share resources, and listen to expert speakers.
Successful performance of a Safety Group, as determined by a WSIB audit, will result in a potential 6% maximum rebate of group premiums based on achievement and performance.
Krista Schmid's experiences
As a chapter facilitator, or "chapter lead," Schmid organizes and facilitates meetings, arranges for guest speakers, ensures members have access to the resources and expertise they need to succeed, and checks in with chapter members between meetings.
Schmid acknowledges that her dual experiences as a member and then chapter lead may give her a unique perspective, but counters that every member contributes a unique perspective to the group. "Even if members are all from the same industry sector, you still have different experiences and areas of expertise. This creates a pretty dynamic learning and sharing environment for everyone."
This holds true, says Schmid, if you belong to a sector-specific chapter or community-based chapter. As a Safety Groups member, Schmid belonged to a community-based chapter. As a chapter lead, she currently facilitates a sector-specific group that started with franchisees from the same restaurant chain but has since expanded to include members from other restaurants and facilities.
"There are advantages to both types of chapters," says Schmid. “In sector-based chapters, members work in similar environments, face the same hazards, and can draw on shared experiences and expertise. But in community-based chapters, whose members often represent a range of industry sectors, members may still share similar issues. For instance, a few years ago all WSPS Safety Group chapters adopted violence and harassment prevention as one of their members' five elements for the year. In this situation, interacting with members from other sectors can lead to a lot of creative, outside-of-the-box solutions.
"Keep in mind too that members often have different types of responsibility back in the workplace. We have small business owners, HR managers, health and safety coordinators… each one brings something different. This variety stimulates learning and sharing."
As a chapter lead, Schmid sees firsthand the growth that members experience. “Their understanding of health and safety, and their confidence in applying their new understanding, really expands. In some instances, it’s like a light going on. Suddenly the information they've been absorbing comes together. They start to see how they can integrate health and safety into the business’s work practices. And then they start doing it.
"Sometimes new members can be a little dazzled by members who have already belonged for a few years. They sense a difference in the levels of understanding. But once they realize they're just seeing themselves a little further down the road, closing that gap becomes a real incentive. So too the knowledge that they can actually make their workplaces safer. That's a big deal for everyone."
Find out more
The application deadline for WSPS's 2013 Safety Group is December 14. Register by October 31 and save $100.
Learn more online about WSPS's Safety Group. While onsite, watch an information webinar.