Network Magazine
HSO Network Magazine • Volume 1 • Issue 1
 
 
   

Teamwork for a Safer Ontario

By Susan Haldane, Workplace Safety North

 

For Gilles Boisvert, a health and safety consultant-trainer in Hearst, it’s now geography that defines his client list, rather than industry sector alone. As the only field consultant stationed in Hearst, Boisvert now works with a broad cross-section of firms from financial institutions to railway companies, and from pulp and paper plants to the local Tim Hortons.

When he came to work for the Ontario Forestry Safe Workplace Association in 2009, Boisvert’s job focused exclusively on forestry firms. But in 2010, Ontario’s 12 health and safety associations joined forces to create four leaner, more efficient organizations. The change was aimed at limiting duplication and improving front-line service to Ontario’s workplaces.  Today, Hearst – a town of 6,000 roughly 545 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie – provides an ideal example of how that’s working.

“I still serve my local forestry clients first,” Boisvert says, “but now I can also provide basic training and consulting for firms in my own community, no matter what sector they are. These are my neighbours – I don’t have to travel to get to their business. It just makes sense.”

Before the restructuring, health and safety was divided along sector lines. But in northern Ontario, with its vast geography and sparse population, that meant some industries were under served. While there are more than 30 field consultants scattered across the area, a company may be many hours’ drive away from its closest sector consultant.

With the four associations working more closely together, consultants can fill the gaps by providing general training and information to any business in their own community. For services and knowledge specific to their own sector, workplaces can still turn to their own safety association.

Across northern Ontario, the four associations have collaborated to develop a single training calendar, and are coordinating their client lists so workplaces can call a consultant in their own community first. They’ve also linked safety groups in northern communities to give companies more resources and chances to network, and are working together to present workshops and knowledge sessions in communities across the north.

“We’re seeing a strong relationship develop among the safety associations,” says Candys Ballanger-Michaud, CEO of Workplace Safety North.  Because of its location and mandate to serve northern Ontario, WSN has helped to coordinate efforts to bring the safety associations together. “We know it’s making a difference in improving the level of service for our northern businesses. We all share the goal of eliminating injuries and illnesses, but now we’re able to combine just-in-time training and consulting with the sector-specific services that all businesses need.”

The four health and safety associations continue to operate as separate organizations, and meeting the needs of workplaces for knowledge particular to their unique hazards and processes continues to be the priority. But the success of sharing services across northern Ontario may work as a model for other regions of the province, Ballanger-Michaud adds, allowing clients to tap into the broad range of expertise available.

Learn more about Health & Safety Ontario and the four organizations.

 
Lewis Wheelan

“We’re seeing a strong relationship develop among the safety associations,” says Candys Ballanger-Michaud, CEO of Workplace Safety North. Because of its location and mandate to serve northern Ontario, Workplace Safety North has helped to coordinate efforts to bring the safety associations together.