There’s no silver bullet to preventing workplace accidents. In reality, it’s a little more complicated than waving a magic wand or snapping your fingers.
It’s a huge challenge that requires a universal buy-in from employers and employees.
According to the Chief Prevention Officer for the Ministry of Labour Ron Kelusky, he has seen first-hand how the construction industry has stepped up its efforts when it comes to workplace health and safety.
“I commend the construction industry for their commitment, said Kelusky, who was one of four guest speakers at A Safer Ontario for the People event in Richmond Hill.
“Next to mining, your investment in health and safety is about $4,800 per capita so you’re not taking it lightly which is really important,” Kelusky told a gathered health and safety professionals and construction industry leaders at the Richmond Hill Country Club recently.
Kelusky was joined on a panel with Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Erin Oliver, vice-president of Employee Health and Safety, Modern Niagara Group, and Monica A. Szabo, chair of the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals.
“The other thing that’s happened is that you’re going beyond compliance, beyond simply just ticking the box and saying I took a course and I’m safe,” Kelusky said. “Well, taking a course, what we found, doesn’t make you safe, it’s how you integrate the knowledge that you’ve learned into a system that you have committed to.”
“You take that internal responsibility; you create a health and management system; you invest in your people and your people invest in the company and it makes good sense from a productivity point of view and, also, from a safety point of view,” Kelusky said.
He said there are 380 inspectors and half a million businesses in this province “and if we just knocked on every door, it would take us a hundred years to visit every business.”
Each business, he said, needs to do their part and take ownership in the issue. He said that employers are critical in helping create a robust health and safety plan for their employees.
And the Ministry is committed to helping out.
“We want to give employers and workplaces the information that they need” to create a strong culture of safety.
He said that a recent discussion in the Minister’s office centered on “how we provide you, the employer, with the information and the right format so you can talk to your people.
“We have a stack of information. We know where the problem is; what the problem is and what to do about it. Our biggest challenge is we can’t transfer it and, in some cases, we can’t translate it in the right way so people understand it.”
“Health and safety … we talk to the converted and it’s good, but we need to get out there to talk to those who aren’t getting it.
“Creating easy and accessible resources … a one-stop shop. You know who the largest health and safety provider is in Ontario?” he asked.
“Google … so we have to take the Google out of health and safety.”
He said toolbox talks are a simple yet very effective way to communicate and reinforce safety basics, focus on high-risk scenarios and to inform workers about changes to the job site and working conditions that may have occurred since their last shift.
“If you pause and stop and have those toolbox talks, what you bring to the table is information that people will really understand about whether it’s the hazard of the job or whether it’s ‘Did you know?’”
Kelusky said everyone thinks that when you fall, “you fall from a high height.”
“It’s those people that are working on a site where they are less than four metres off the ground. They’re the ones we have to help. That’s who we have to focus on,” he said, adding that’s why regular toolbox talks are extremely important as a communication tool.
Overall, Kelusky said construction is “safe” but there are portions of construction that “we need to focus on.”
In his closing remarks, Kelusky noted that the prevention office is looking at several initiatives to empower employers to do what’s right when it comes to health and safety. As the Minister noted, we will soon be announcing a voluntary program that will recognize the safe employers in Ontario.
“We’ve done a lot of work on it. We’ve worked with a lot of organizations; we’ve done extensive consultations with both labour and with employer groups. So, stand by for more details,” he said.
Hosted by Tickner and Associates, the event helped raise more than $7,000 for Threads of Life – a Canadian registered charity dedicated to supporting families after a workplace fatality, life-altering injury or occupational disease.