Safety progress can’t mean complacency
People are still dying as a result of their work
Chances are you already know that you and your employer both have responsibilities when it comes to workplace safety.
You probably work for one of the 73 per cent of employers who tell us they have a safety policy. Hopefully, even better, it’s prominently posted in your workplace, for all to see. Having a policy is the easy part. It shows that you know about occupational health and safety.
But as we marked North American Occupational Health and Safety Week last week, and the 25th anniversary of the Westray Mine explosion, I’d like to challenge everyone to look at safety as much more than that policy on your workplace wall.
Because knowing about safety isn’t enough. We need to care about it.
We need to not just post the policy and not just check the box. We need to make safety personal.
Don’t get me wrong. There are encouraging signs that more and more Nova Scotia workplaces are caring about safety. Workplace injuries have steadily declined in recent years. Our injury rate in Nova Scotia now stands at 1.74 time-loss injuries per 100 workers – its lowest point in its history.
Industries that once struggled with safety are doing much better – like fishing, where injuries have been reduced by half since 2009. For the first time in many years, in 2016, no one drowned or was lost at sea in commercial fishing.
There are other examples. About 90 CEOs across the province have made a formal commitment to safety by signing the Nova Scotia Health and Safety Leadership Charter. We have more and better safety tools and resources than ever before. There’s more accountability for safety failures. Safety partnerships within and across industries are helping to build and strengthen our province’s safety culture.
This is all great news. But it’s not enough.
We need our progress to continue, because serious challenges remain.
The injury rate in Nova Scotia’s Health and Social Services Sector is alarming, especially in long-term care and home care. Nearly 10 per cent of all workers in home care were hurt on the job last year.
People are still dying as a result of their work. There were two acute fatalities in Nova Scotia workplaces in 2016. That’s an improvement over previous years. But the only acceptable number when it comes to workplace fatalities is zero.
Many people are doing good work to improve these issues. We’re making progress. But we’re not there yet.
Over the next few weeks more Nova Scotians will head off to work than at any other time of year. Some workers will take to the sea. Others will put on their scrubs and care for people. Many will climb up on scaffolding to build and renovate. Students will start summer jobs and for some it will be their first experience in the working world.
All year long, more people and organizations need to evolve from knowing about safety, to really caring about it. Because caring truly is the currency of safety.
Complacency is our enemy in this pursuit. Nova Scotia can be proud of what we have accomplished over the past decade. But we must also only be satisfied when workplace tragedies are eliminated, and everyone who works for a living goes home safe and sound to what matters most.
“Knowing about safety isn’t enough. We need to care about it.”