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What the hell is a blog?

“What the hell is a blog?”

That was my initial reaction when our newly hired business manager Mike, came to me and suggested that as the Director of Mentor Safety, it would be a good idea to write a blog for our newly re-designed website and to ‘get engaged’.

Yes, you guessed it, there is a bit an of an age difference between the two of us and, as Mike said, it’s time I get into this social media age.

So here it is my first Blog. The topic I chose was ‘What is health and safety? What does health and safety really mean?’

Let’s start 34 years ago when I started in health and safety. I was fresh out of trade school and got my first job as an apprentice Millwright. Within the first week of working I found myself in the ER room getting stitches to the hand I had just cut while working. Days after my return my boss came up to me and said “You need some safety in you work life, I am putting you on the JHSC.” My response was “Well ok, but what is a JHSC?”

From that point on I became fascinated with the world of health and safety. Four years later I had the opportunity to move to a new job. There was a new automotive plant being built in Ingersoll Ontario. Shortly after being hired I was appointed to the JHSC and 30 years later I was in the role of the Health and Safety Representative. This is where I gained much of my experience as a safety professional.

Over the years I have seen health and safety evolve. I have seen many different types of safety programs, including behavioral safety program (BBS), some successful and many not so successful.

So if I was to be asked “If you were to sum up safety in one word, what would it be?” my answer would be… COMMUNICATION. Safety is simply, although difficult at times, communication. I have found that companies with a good open communication principal do well with implementing a proper safety program.

Safety requires commitment from all workplace parties if it is to be successful in a workplace.

Let’s look at behavior based safety programs (BBS) which have been around for many years. Safety programs wrapped up in a nice neat package with slogans and posters… feel good stuff. The problem with these programs is that they implement very uni-directional communication. The workers are told to be safe, wear safety glasses, hold on to hand rails, accidents are caused by careless workers, and if you see someone doing something unsafe tell them to be safe. These are all good safety precautions but do they really fix the root cause of safety issues and concerns? I guess by now you can tell that I am not a fan of BBS programs. They simply don’t address safety in its totality.

Safety to me is more inclusive. Back in the late 1970s, when James Ham reviewed the health and safety laws, he based them on the Principal of the Internal Responsibility System, which would require government, employers and workers to work together to improve health and safety. To implement this system he advocated for the creation of joint labour-management health and safety committees. This was the starting point for Joint Health & Safety Committees (JHSC) and a turning point for workers as they would now have the right to participate in health and safety recommendations.

Safety requires commitment from all workplace parties if it is to be successful in a workplace. When everyone in the workplace is communicating safety, whether it is by performing inspections, creating policy, providing safety talks, implementing design, review of new equipment and processes, or any other process of safety, without communication, it is destined to fail.

There is no way to short circuit to a good safety program. It starts with commitment, a good foundation of communication, and a sound safety culture… not policy and rules.

In my next Blog I will talk about that safety policy and rule manual that sits on the safety person or manager’s desk covered in dust. Yes, I have seen many. And I bet you have too.

Till then be safe and be part of communicating safety in your workplace.

Jamie Wright CRSP, CHSC
Mentor Safety Consultants Inc.