That was one message sent to workers and employers at the 56th annual NL Occupational Health and Safety Conference held last month (May) in Gander.
Loyola Power, manager of prevention services for the Workplace Health and Safety Compensation Commission of Newfoundland and Labrador (WHSCCNL), told the delegation more committees need to become active.
“We have 3,129 registered health and safety committees in the province. Fantastic,” he said. “Within that, we have 36,386 people trained. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is our committee delinquency rate is 39 per cent.”
Mr. Power said while it’s by far not the worst it’s ever been in terms of delinquent committees, the number could still be lower.
“This is less than it has been in the past there have been phases in the past where we’ve had up to 60 per cent of our committees not active,” he said. “It’s still in no way, shape or form where we should be.”
Mr. Power said occupational health and safety standards are in place for a reason, and employers and workers should ensure they are met in their workplaces.
Mr. Power said when standards are developed, officials embark on an extensive process to make certain they are designed and delivered appropriately.
“We don’t just pull it out of the air,” he said. “We look first at stakeholder consultation, look at who the stakeholders are: employers, employees, government organizations, consultants, and trainers in particular.”
Mr. Power said officials go far beyond the shores of this province in order to set very high standards for safety in the workplace.
“We go through a research process where we look at best practices across the country, and in jurisdictions internationally,” he said. “We try to use that information to put together the best standards we possibly can.”
Those standards are put in place with the primary goal of preventing on-the-job injuries and deaths. In April of this year, the WHSCCNL released a report regarding workplace injury rates for 2011. During that year, 4,070 workers were injured on the job in the province. That number was consistent with the previous year, and organization officials were pleased to note only 491 of those injuries involved young workers.
“Young workers in this province, and those who work with and train our young workers, are to be congratulated for continuing to employ safe work practices, and improving their safety record,” said Commission CEO Leslie Galway. “This bodes well for the future. Safe work practices and attitudes of our young workers are critical for the continued development of a strong culture of safety in this province.”
Although there doesn’t appear to be an increase in workplace injuries, one incident from a couple of years ago made headlines last week when a company was charged with a number of violations.
Charges were laid against Barry Group Inc., a Harbour Grace-based company. An investigation into an August, 2010, incident on the Harbour Grace wharf resulted in the company being charged with four violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The charges are in relation to an incident during which a worker was struck by a company forklift.
The charges regard the company’s alleged failure, as the employer, to ensure that mobile equipment was maintained in a safe working order, and to ensure a safe workplace and equipment was provided and maintained. The company is also accused of failing to ensure work was conducted so that bystanders were not exposed to health and safety hazards. A supervisor with the company has also been charged. A court date is scheduled for June 19 at provincial court in Harbour Grace.