Ontario agriculture, manufacturing and service operations looking for a proven, expert-led and peer-supported forum for boosting health and safety performance could have at least 40 opportunities in 2012. Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) is now accepting applications for an anticipated 40 Safety Group chapters located throughout the province.
Safety Groups are a performance-based rebate program developed by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Through their participation, most member firms achieve fewer lost-time injuries and a significantly lower severity rate compared to non-member firms in the same rate group, and earn rebates of up to 6% on their WSIB premiums.
Dramatic results for 2010
WSPS’s Safety Group chapters consistently achieve significant health and safety gains. According to results for 2010, released in late October, member firms improved their overall injury
frequency rate by 18%
severity rate by 22%
As a result of their improved performance, more than 750 firms collectively earned a compensation premium rebate of $7.6 million.
How participants benefit
Surveys of Safety Group members indicate that participants
acquire the know-how and the motivation to implement health and safety initiatives
experience fewer lost-time injuries and a significantly lower severity rate
report greater access to health and safety resources
report being very satisfied with the program and their safety group sponsor
“You can’t get access to better resources or one-on-one help,” says Stephanie Lariviere, regulatory manager for Erie James Limited and a founding member of WSPS’s Leamington agriculture chapter. Read more about Lariviere’s first year as a Safety Group member in “One member firm’s experiences,” below.
How the program works
The Safety Group program offers companies a structure, resources and an incentive to make things happen. Participating member organizations are grouped into local chapters. A WSPS facilitator organizes meetings, provides resources, and handles administration.
Members sign up for one year at a time, for up to five years. At the beginning of each year, each member sets his or her priorities – elements of a health and safety program that they will work on improving in their own operations. Four elements are chosen from five categories:
return to work
Examples of elements within these categories include orientation, purchasing standards, workplace roles and responsibilities, incident investigation, and workplace inspections, as well as a range of prevention topics such as lockout, PPE, noise abatement, first aid, fall prevention and ventilation. Members attend up to five meetings per year, which allow them to network, learn from each other, and glean information from experts and guest speakers.
Emergency response planning: common element for 2012
In addition to the four elements that each member selects to work on throughout the year, all members work on a fifth common element. For 2012, the common element is emergency response planning.
Brenda Vrooman, a WSPS consultant who facilitates Safety Group manufacturing chapters in Kingston and Belleville, believes many members will already have a head start. But regardless of your level of preparedness, explains Vrooman, the element presents an opportunity for all members to prevent injuries, loss of life and property loss.
Emergency response plans are already required under the provincial Fire Protection and Prevention Act’s Fire Code (section 18.104.22.168), and the Occupational Health and Safety Act’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Regulation(O. Reg. 860, section 7(1)). Each has specific concerns in mind. An overall emergency response plan would add additional protection, explains Vrooman, by taking into account all foreseeable emergencies.
“It’s going to help you take a look at all risks in the workplace,” says Vrooman,“and ensure you have controls in place for them.”
A daunting prospect? “Not necessarily,” says Alison Beer, a WSPS consultant and facilitator of a Safety Group services chapter in Ottawa. “We’ll be offering chapter members a lot of tools and guidance. Typically, we’ll start off with a presentation during the first chapter meeting, and a sample plan that members will be able to adapt to their particular needs.”
“Chapter members won’t be expected to accomplish everything at once,” notes Vrooman. “I would tell a client just starting out to take small bites. You probably already have a fire plan in place, so then identify other events that could lead to an emergency.” Both the manufacturing and services sectors share many hazards, such as fire, explosions or power outages. But each also may encounter unique hazards, such as contact with a controlled substance or lift truck roll-overs in manufacturing, or customer-related violence and harassment in the services sector.
“Once you’ve prioritized your list of possible events,” says Vrooman, “you can steadily build them into your existing emergency response plan.” For instance, plan components may include emergency response procedures, a contact list of emergency personnel with duties and responsibilities, training for designated staff, such as fire wardens, and so on.
One member firm’s experiences
Stephanie Lariviere, regulatory manager for Erie James Limited, is a founding member of WSPS’s Leamington agriculture chapter. “I heard about the Safety Group from a colleague,” explains Lariviere. “I would have joined any chapter, not just an agriculture chapter,” she says.
Lariviere is responsible for the company’s food safety audits and health & safety performance. “We recognized a need in our organization to review our current health and safety protocols, and update or improve them. Staying compliant with current laws and regulations is important to us. We also thought it would be a cost-effective way to examine just how effective our current health and safety program is,” says Lariviere. “How we measured up to others in our peer group was another factor that appealed to us.”
Erie James Limited is a third-generation, family-owned and operated produce grower, marketer and shipper. The business has 25 to 60 employees, depending on the season. Primary health and safety challenges include slips, trips and falls, as well as repetitive strain injuries.
“Having access to WSPS resources that we wouldn’t otherwise be aware of just made it all that much easier to ensure we’re compliant and implement what we were missing,” says Lariviere. “Bill 168, for example.1 I don’t think a lot of companies realize how much is available from WSPS.”
Lariviere also found the meetings easy to attend. “We attended all five because they were just very valuable. The networking opportunity alone made joining the Safety Group worthwhile. You can’t get access to better resources or one-on-one help. If there was anything I didn’t know, I could ask my peers in the group. If there was training I needed, I could ask Jay for a referral.”
WSPS consultant and Leamington chapter facilitator Jay Remsik says the challenge of training workers who speak little or no English was one instance in which group members were able to help each other. “A lot of farm workers are from offshore,” explains Remsik, “so for employers the issue becomes, ‘How do I provide health and safety information to a worker whose first language is not English?’ The group discussed this and shared suggestions and best practices. At every meeting, we always have time for networking, either in small groups or all together.”
Already a member?
If you already belong to a Safety Group, invite clients, suppliers and other firms to sign up. “Existing members are among our most enthusiastic promoters,” says Remsik. “New members bring new information and ideas, and provide members with an opportunity to mentor others. This helps everyone improve their safety performance.”
How we can help
Learn more about WSPS’s Safety Group program. As part of the recruitment process for the 2012 Safety Group, WSPS has posted two webinars. Check them out.
The deadline for applications was December 16, 2011.
1 Bill 168, An Act to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act with respect to violence and harassment in the workplace and other matters, came into effect June 15, 2010. Workplaces in Ontario are now required to have the necessary policies, programs, measures and procedures in place. Learn more.