Participant spotlight on Lakehead Region Conservation Authority
|Ryan Mackett, Communications Manager, talks about benefits the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority received from joining the Health and Safety Excellence program.|
When it comes to health and safety, many Ontario businesses are uncertain of where to start. That’s where the Health and Safety Excellence program comes in.
The provincial Health and Safety Excellence program helps Ontario businesses develop their own workplace health and safety programs, network, and learn—all with the potential for earning a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premium rebate.
Ryan Mackett, Communications Manager with the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority in Thunder Bay, talked with approved program provider Workplace Safety North (WSN), and the following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Can you tell us a bit about your organization?
Conservation authorities play a significant role in flood forecasting, water level monitoring and the administration of development regulations. We also own, operate and maintain recreational conservation areas where people can go hiking and trail running, and we supply education programming. We’re a very interesting and unique organization and there’s 36 of us in the province of Ontario, which is the only province with conservation authorities.
How did you hear about the program?
Prior to the Excellence program, we were members of the northern Ontario safety groups program for two years, and when it transitioned to the Excellence program, we continued with it.
Our Chief Administrative Officer got wind of the Excellence program through correspondence—we’re subscribed to all of the Workplace Safety North newsletters, so it was something that we saw value in joining.
We just registered for the 2022 program, so I’m gathering all of my information to get started.
|Lakehead Region Conservation Authority field crew carrying out routine maintenance in the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway.|
Have you recognized a reduction in workplace injuries or an improvement in workplace safety culture?
We have 11 full-time permanent staff, and there haven’t been any workplace injuries here for quite a while.
I think that the standards we created as part of the program last year clarified a few things and has affected our workplace culture in a positive way.
Can you tell us a bit more about the improvement in workplace safety culture?
In the past, we did not have a strong health and safety program. We had very few standardized policies and just kind of a general nonchalance about health and safety. This program has really allowed us to focus and develop policies and procedures that we either didn’t have in place, or discovered may be needed, or thought would be beneficial.
It’s been very helpful in keeping us on track—identifying deficiencies and gaps in our program and helping us fill those deficiencies and gaps in a meaningful way. Because of that, it’s strengthened our focus on health and safety promotion in the workplace and that has led to an overall safer-feeling work environment.
What are the benefits of the program for you?
The networking aspect of the program is extremely beneficial. This has slowed down a little due to the pandemic, but it’s always really interesting to hear different perspectives from other companies of different sizes to help frame and contextualize health and safety issues across the board. Also, networking in terms of resource-sharing and support has been helpful.
The standard samples and organized approach that WSN and the program itself have, lends itself to efficient policy development. There’s a lot of resources in place that make it easier than starting from scratch with a blank Word document.
There are support and resources in place that help organizations that may be worried about adding more work; there are mechanisms in place that alleviate that. I think the resources provided are excellent.
The Workplace Safety North staff are a fantastic resource. Whenever I email or call, I get very quick responses, and any issues I’ve had have been fixed as quickly as possible.
Of course, the other benefit or reward is that if you do your five topics and you are successful in implementing them, the rebate is a nice perk.
I can honestly say that the rebate is part of why we joined, but first and foremost, our reason is that we needed help in developing and implementing a proper, sound health safety program.
How did the Excellence program affect your workplace?
The program positively influenced our workplace. Our health and safety culture has become top of mind for everybody. I’m regularly working on health and safety items, and they’re always being discussed or referenced.
We’re fairly collaborative in how we develop or decide which policies we need, so it’s really brought health and safety to the forefront. We’ve gone almost a complete 180 as an organization. Before, safety was hardly talked about, now, it’s what we lead with.
Everybody needs to buy in and take part in our health safety program. That’s a mandatory condition of employment here now.
Would you recommend other firms joining the excellence program, and if so, why?
One hundred percent I’d recommend it, especially if your organization needs that extra little bit of assistance or direction in how to properly develop a health and safety program. That’s where this program really shines. I think some larger corporations have dedicated health and safety staff and that’s all they do, and I think there’d still be a benefit for organizations like that. The direction and structure provided by the Excellence program is extremely beneficial.