Topic: BC Health & Safety Forum – April 19-20, 2018
“Action Plans, Plans to Action”
Greetings Sisters and Brothers,
On April 19 – 20, the BC Regional Health & Safety/Environment Committee hosted an educational forum at the Unifor office in New Westminster, with support and assistance from the Unifor National Health & Safety department.
This event was the first of its kind hosted by the BC Committee, and was deemed a great success as indicated by those who participated in the two-day event. To begin with, the first day started with greetings from Jenny Ahn, Assistant to the Financial Secretary and Sari Sairanen, Director of the Health & Safety Department.
Following this, a return to work segment gave a good sense of how to prepare and what to expect when workers come back to the workforce after an injury or illness. An information sheet showing the stages of returning to work, workers’ rights and factors to consider proved valuable as a quick reference guide.
Next, a panel of members from various locals discussed how health & safety committees could be more effective. The discussion shared some of the highs and lows that committees face, and strategies that can help them overcome some common pitfalls.
Cannabis at work was the next panel discussion, which drew a number of questions about what to expect from companies once it is legalized. A lack of testing to detect the level of impairment means employers will likely be heavy handed if an employee does not indicate that they have medical authorization to use cannabis, after an incident of usage arises. Consumption will not be tolerated while a worker is on duty, regardless of it being legalized. In summary, laws are yet to be created even though legalization is just around the corner. This begs the question - what are we to expect?
A segment on the “Action Plans, Plans to Action” theme kicked off the second day. Here we discussed accident investigation, toxic substances, ergonomics, and health and safety for women. All of these topics touched on ways to better utilize the information available, to further raise awareness about these important workplace issues.
By implementing an action plan to address various workplace hazards, we can better understand how to deal with incidences and enhance practices and procedures. Health and safety policies and regulations must be updated regularly to ensure workplaces prioritize injury prevention and worker protection.
The “Workplace Trends and Areas for Change” segment, led by the Workers’ Advisory Office, focused on bad habits that workers get used to, possibly not realizing the dangers these habits pose. Reflecting on my own experience of working the floor in a freight warehouse in the 1970s, this segment highlighted how the conditions of the warehouse, dangerous goods, and operation of heavy equipment would not be even remotely acceptable now. Back then, improvements came slowly as attitudes changed and the awareness for the need of a safer workplace environment was building. This was partly in response to the tragedy of too many workers being injured and killed because of the neglect and ignorance of companies that would not create safe guards, or provide protective equipment and education to keep workers out of harm’s way.
Today is not much different; as leaders in health and safety, we must continue to make improvements by remembering the past and the continuous effort it has taken to get where we are today, and that much remains to be done. Workplace technologies change and health and safety standards must also change to meet the new demands that are put on the workers and the workplace environment.
The final presentation was hosted by Terry Small, an international expert on how the brain works. Terry shared the primary function of the brain, ways of boosting brain power, and the foods that best support healthy brain function. Matched with an excellent slide deck and video clips that captured the room’s attention, Terry demonstrated how the way we see things is not always the way they are. He then related this to accidents that can happen on the job, detailing how the relationship between the mind and the body can get disconnected or confused under certain conditions. This was a very interactive session as attendees took part in activities that truly challenged the brain. Terry’s information videos come highly recommended; one of which is an in-depth presentation about the session he led, titled “Brain Boosting Secrets”.
This concludes the report from the BC Regional Health and Safety/Environment Committee on the two-day forum held in Vancouver B.C. April 19-20, 2018.
Gord McGrath, Chairperson
BC Regional Occupational Health and Safety/Environment Committee