Safety progress can’t mean com­pla­cency

Peo­ple are still dy­ing as a re­sult of their work

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial - Stu­art MacLean Guest Shot Stu­art MacLean is the CEO for the Work­ers’ Com­pen­sa­tion Board of Nova Sco­tia, which has of­fices in Hal­i­fax and Syd­ney. He lives in Hal­i­fax.

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.”

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