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Carola Mittag-
I just had the privilege of entering a new decade last week. For me, this is a time of reflection, remembering and being grateful but also with a little bit of apprehension.

Reflection – I have worked with wonderful people in the dental field and have had the opportunity to make other people’s lives better, particularly young people who, with straightened teeth and beautiful smiles were more confident in facing the world. It has also been an honour to have met dedicated and talented individuals in health and safety, my second rewarding career.

Remembering – In the decades of my life, I have had very good times and experienced great lows. The good news is that I overcame them and here I am reminiscing about the good times. My second to last turn of decade was celebrated away from the cold winter in lovely Arizona. The last turn of decade was also in a warmer climate where I went parasailing on my Birthday to mark the milestone.

Gratitude – Due to the pandemic, I could not celebrate this milestone Birthday as I would have wanted but still had to do something memorable, so I bought myself a stand-up paddleboard/kayak. I am grateful for my health and the confidence (or is it foolishness) to take on a new, physically demanding sport in this new decade of my life.

Apprehension – The reason I am apprehensive is because I have now entered the decade in which my mother passed away. On the other hand and, in gratitude, my father is alive and well at almost 96 years of age. So I’ll cast away all nervousness and look forward, not apprehensively but with anticipation, to the future.

In this essay, my focus is on what is important to living a full, content and healthy life. Part of the life cycle is working; it is a life’s necessity. When we join the working world, regardless of the type of work we do, we have the right to expect to be kept safe from hazards that could endanger our well-being. We cannot do this unless we are made aware of the hazards of the work we are asked to do.

Who is responsible for keeping us safe at work? Is it our employer; is it the supervisor or, is it ourselves? The correct answer is all of the above. This is the essence of the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) and the foundation for a healthy, safe workplace where everyone shares accountability.

The Employer Section 25. Duties of Employers. Legislatively, the employer bears the greatest responsibility. He/she must set the groundwork, i.e. create and put in place written policies and procedures; ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) is appropriate and available; enforce the health and safety expectations as set out by law and internal company policies; and follow up when there is an accident or incident that could have been catastrophic, or when there is a breach in safety procedure.

This is an enormous responsibility and why it is critical to appoint supervisors who, because of their experience, knowledge of health and safety law, and training, are competent. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) states that employers must ensure they appoint persons who are competent. Section 25. (2)(c). Without providing training to supervisors, employers are not complying with the requirements of the OHSA.

The SupervisorSection 27. Duties of Supervisor. By law, supervisors are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of the workers they oversee. Without the experience, knowledge of health and safety law and proper training, supervisors are ill-prepared to carry out their duties competently. Ministry inspectors will ask to see proof of training of supervisors when conducting routine inspections. Being a supervisor bears with it a high level of responsibility, next only to that of the employer.

The Worker – The law also has expectations of workers; they are not free of responsibilities for health and safety in the workplace. Section 28. Duties of Workers requires workers to work according to the provisions of the OHSA; use equipment and protective devices and clothing that the employer requires; and to report any contravention of the OHSA and any hazards of which they are aware.

When all three work parties respect themselves and co-workers by accepting their responsibilities and accountabilities, the Internal Responsibility System is working at its best to ensure that workers return home at the end of the working day in the same state as when they came to work that day.

The ultimate goal is for workers to be able reflect, to remember and to gratefully celebrate many decades of Birthdays both during their working years and well into retirement.

Watch for next month’s Blog published in the first week of April.


Carola Mittag

Consultant and Editor for Mentor Safety Consultants Inc.