Workplace health and safety top of mind

In today’s world, a workplace injury or death just shouldn’t occur.

That’s a notion Nancy Wilding hopes area residents take to heart during this week’s North American Occupational Safety and Health Week that kicked off with a flag raising Monday at Orillia city hall.

“I want to raise awareness on how we can reduce the number of injuries,” said Wilding, the city’s health and safety officer.

She said the city is making great strides when it comes to days lost due to injuries and illness relating to its almost 400 employees.

“Because we have so many different duties and functions, we’re covering a wide range of job descriptions,” she said, noting someone working in the parks, recreation and culture department might have to contend with flying pucks or driving the Zamboni, from a health and safety perspective, while a firefighter must deal with a range of elements and variables.

“The City of Orillia has seen a steady decline in the number of employee health and safety incidents over the past two years – including near misses, first aids, medical aids and lost-time injuries,” Wilding said, adding 2016 saw 12% fewer incidents than 2015. “And there was a 15% reduction in 2015 compared to 2014.”

Ian Nicholson, president of the local firefighters’ union and co-chair of the joint health and safety committee, said he regularly meets with his department’s managers to “fix the problems we have and be proactive to make sure everyone returns home safely.”

North American Occupational Safety and Health Week was launched in 1997 following an agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico to promote workplace safety.

Wilding said the ultimate goal is to focus employers, employees and the public on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home and in the community.

As well, she noted, the city will host a “lunch and learn” for its employees Wednesday with an emphasis on mental-health awareness.

Mayor Steve Clarke said it’s essential to recognize the important role health and safety play in the workplace.

“It’s a great reminder that everyone should be able to return home healthy,” Clarke told those gathered for Monday’s event.

He said the city is committed to the health and safety of its employees by doing everything reasonable to prevent accidents, injuries and illness, by providing safe equipment and facilities, competent supervision and adequate employee training.

“We invite all citizens to support the healing journey of families who have suffered from a workplace fatality, traumatic, life-altering injury or occupational disease,” the mayor said.

andrewphilips@live.ca

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workplace health and safety