Pressure and Support For Youth Safety


From our Occupational Health and Safety studies, we have learned that the Internal Responsibility System (IRS) is integral to ensuring that every day our colleagues and co-workers come to work with an expectation of safety and that every day they leave work with that expectation fulfilled. Under the IRS each of us has a personal responsibility to ensure that other individuals in the workplace are both working safely and promoting safe work practices. These other individuals include new workers, young workers, and summer student workers. The provision of safety support alone, however, is not enough to keep our young co-workers safe. The supportive responsibilities go hand in hand with pressure from government intervention to make sure safe work practices for youth are implemented and reinforced.

Every year, provincial programs focus on ensuring that employers are providing safe workplaces for new and young worker during the summer months. This summer time ‘safety blitz’ includes the pressure of inspections by government representatives, who have the authority to fine and impose safety-related orders when employers are found to be non-compliant with safe work practices.

Click here to read about the summer safety blitz announced in London, Ontario.

Along with this type of pressure, supportive education programs targeting schools with young workers, continue beyond the summer months.

Click here to read about more about youth safety and watch a news clip about Youth Safety Education Day in Saskatchewan.

The need for both pressure and support comes from the unfortunate reality of young worker injury and fatality rates. As noted in the interview promoting Youth Safety Education Day in Saskatchewan, 50% of young workers are injured on the job within the first six months of work and worse, there is an average of three fatalities per year for youth on the job in the same province. Given that Ontario’s prior year summer safety blitz resulted in ‘7,675 orders and requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act,’ it is clear that the need for safety at work for young workers is a cross-provincial concern.

More importantly, under the IRS program and especially for young workers, it is clear that the need for both pressure and support for safety at work is everyone’s concern.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do businesses benefit from promoting programs like Youth Safety Days?
  2. What are the injury and fatality rates for young workers in your province?
  3. What programs are in place to prevent and reduce harm to this targeted group of workers?
  4. What types of Health and Safety protocols do you advise an employer to put into place to ensure that summer students and young workers stay safe at work?
  5. What do you do to promote safe work practices at work?

Do not be a Pinball Wizard!

Asa Smudhavanich /Shutterstock

Many pundits, including myself, continue to question the effectiveness of the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) in Canada.

What is happening with JHSCs in Canadian workplaces? Most organizations understand the legal requirement to have a JHSC, and most JHSC members are smart dedicated employees that are committed about health and safety. Canadian organizations spend time and money to make sure their JHSC works – but it usually doesn’t.  What is happening?  It is a strange paradox which I call the “pinball effect.”

Even though video games have long since replaced the old-style arcade pinball machine, I think millennials would understand how they work.  For those that have never played a pinball machine, it’s basically a metal ball hitting an electrified bumper and moving in random directions, where the player has very little control over where it goes.

Click here if you want to see one in action.

Most JHSCs behave like a pinball machine – hence the term pinball effect. Most JHSCs start off with direction, just like when the ball is shot out into the pinball machine, then the fun begins once the metal ball gets bounced around in a haphazard fashion. Let’s expand on this metaphor with a summary of a typical JHSC activity: the monthly safety inspection.

The JHSC does a safety inspection and they obtain a long list of complaints from the workers about all the things that need fixed. The JHSC member is now bouncing from complaint to complaint, in a random way. The JHSC member writes up the complaints and gives them to the managers or the maintenance department who quickly become overwhelmed and don’t complete the tasks.

The workers get frustrated at the JHSC because they never get anything accomplished, the JHSC members become disengaged because of perceived lack of support from management, and management feels it is spending time and money on the safety program but not seeing the results. Everyone is just compounding each other’s unmet needs.  That is why I call it the pinball effect.

Since no one has ever solved a problem by complaining, here is my recommendation to avoid the JHSC pinball effect. The number one way to overcome this pinball effect is to change the focus of your JHSC monthly inspections.  Your JHSC should not be walking around every month with a clipboard identifying hazards. What should happen is this: the JHSC becomes the auditors of how well the safety program is being embraced with the organizations; if they see a hazard on their inspection, they should not write the hazard down. What they should do is ask two very important audit type questions, one to the worker and one to the supervisor. Here are the questions:

  • To the worker: Why did you not report this hazard to your supervisor?
  • To the supervisor: Why did you not identify and correct this hazard?

The JHSC should be writing down the answers and then taking them back to the JHSC meeting for discussion and recommendations to correct the Health and Safety program. This is how you avoid the pinball effect.

Discussion Questions

What other interventions would you recommend as a HR professional to improve the effectiveness of your organizations’ JHSC?

Click on this link to download a JHSC assessment tool.

Review the tool. Identity which assessments questions you feel are more valuable to improve the effectiveness of a JHSC. Create a smaller questionnaire with the 10 questions your feel are the most important.


Crime & Punishment

TypoArt BS/Shutterstock

Every day we make choices; big choices and little choices, all of which are within our scope of control.

It’s the same with health and safety in the workplace. Working safely is a choice-based trajectory that individual workers follow on a daily basis. There are also rules, guidelines, structures, and requirements that help workers make the ‘right’ choice — which is to work safely.

However, no matter how much support is put in place, from time to time individual workers make the ‘wrong’ choice. It may be intentional or unintentional, but workers who make the choice to take a risk, choose to work unsafely. This choice all too often results in harm to themselves or to others in the workplace, sometimes with devastating consequences.

Besides the actual physical harm that can follow from unsafe work practices, other consequences include punishments imposed by provincially legislated health and safety sentencing systems. The judicial approaches to work-related health and safety violations have followed the traditional wisdom that penalties paid either with time (jail) or with money (fines) are sufficient to deter future violations and to compensate for harm caused.

But is the threat of punishment through these traditional methods enough to encourage individuals to make the decision to work safely? The province of Nova Scotia has decided it is not. In addition to the existing consequences, the province has introduced alternative sentencing options that focus on changing an individual’s behavior through “creative sentencing”.

Click here to read about Nova Scotia’s alternative approach.

Learning from those who have had to live with the consequences of their poor safety decisions is a powerful motivator. Let’s hope that these sessions lead to better choices, better decisions, and better safety practices for all.


Discussion Questions:

  1. From your reading of this article, how do the creative sentencing alternatives impact the workplace?
  2. If you were the Health and Safety representative in your current organization, how could you change safety training sessions to incorporate some of the techniques identified in this article?
  3. If you had to choose between paying a fine and presenting a ‘lessons learned’ training session to others because your actions caused harm to someone in the workplace, which one would you choose? Explain your rationale.


Safety and the C-Suite

There have been thousands of articles and extensive amounts of research on how to get Human Resources a seat at the corporate table, a.k.a. the C-suite. The change from transnational HR to strategic HR has helped many organizations understand the value of having HR personnel in executive positions.

There is a new trend and progressive organizations are now seeing the value of having safety professionals at the C-suite, not just HR professionals. The problem is, we are not sure the safety professionals are ready to take on that type of role.

Regina McMichael stated in a Canadian Occupational Health and Safety magazine (COS) article: “Safety professionals also don’t act like leaders. Part of the reason for this is because no one has taught them how.”

She is right, the current emphasis for most safety professionals is on compliance. They are the watch dogs of the safety system. When the watch dogs are not present the safety compliance does not happen and the safety program falters.

Many years ago, I created the Safety Accountability System (SAS) and the safety scorecard. This challenged the traditional theory of safety, which was if you comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act laws you have better success at prevention. The whole philosophy behind the SAS is compliance is an outcome, not an objective. This is a subtle difference, but it is so important, and it must be repeated: compliance is an outcome, not an objective of the safety program.

Compliance rarely motives individuals or organizations for long. The theory is, only concrete activities that are measured breed health and safety accountability and sustainability. It is this measurement of safety activities that tie into the organization’s business strategy that makes the health and safety professional a greater asset to the executive role.

If safety professionals want to start being accepted at the executive table, they have to start thinking and acting like an executive leader, not a compliance-based safety officer.

The best way to do that is to implement a sustainable and measurable safety system that frees the safety professional from being the compliance watch dog to becoming a safety leader at the executive table.

Discussion questions:

Research some of the safety companies in Canada. Identify what has made them the safety companies in Canada?

Why is it becoming more important for businesses to have a safety professional at the executive table? Here is a link to get your research started.

Inspiring Health and Safety Culture

Happy child playing with toy wings against summer sky background.
Sunny studio/Shutterstock

Would you rather do something because you had to, or do something because you wanted to?

In either case, for most of us, we will be motivated to get the something done. The difference between these two choices, however, will determine how well we get that something done and whether or not we will be motivated to do it again.

These concepts apply directly to our individual approaches to Health and Safety management. As Human Resources professionals we must take on the role of leadership in Health and Safety matters. How we take on that role will determine whether we are able to influence a positive and pro-active Health and Safety culture, or are limited to a compliance based approach that gets things done but goes no further than the minimum requirements. We can take on the health and safety mantle because we ‘have’ to, or we can shape it in order to effect constructive organizational change.

Shawn Galloway, president of  ProAct Safety, is a passionate advocate for Health and Safety organizational leadership. In a recent interview he discusses the difference that leadership style has on the creation of an inspirational health and safety culture that motivates all employees to do better than the minimum requirements.

Click hear to see the interview.

As Mr. Galloway identifies in the clip a ‘command and control’ culture does get results. This approach speaks to the achievement of the minimum as the target or the goal. In other areas of our Human Resources studies, we look at the concept of a ‘threshold’ requirement which is the same as a minimum standard. It is an acceptable standard in some cases, but it does not offer the opportunity to go beyond the minimum into the realm of excellence and inspiration.

How do we proceed when the minimum is not enough and the measure for compliance is a standard that is, simply, too low?

We must take on the challenge of inspirational leadership, especially in the creation of a pro-active safety culture. We can do so by setting high standards. We can do so by constantly looking at ways to inspire and improve personal performance, not only for others engaged in health and safety practices, but for ourselves as well.

After all, aren’t our work lives worth more than just the minimum?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why are ‘command and control’ systems easy to implement for health and safety standards?
  2. When you think of your own approach to health and safety in the workplace, how are you motivated by the organization to act in a safe manner?
  3. As a Human Resources professional, what steps will you take to ensure that you are perceived as more than a ‘compliance officer’ for Health and Safety?
  4. What skills will you rely on to influence a positive health and safety culture in your workplace?