We have reached a pivotal new turning point in the road toward safer healthier workplaces on a much larger scale, when injuries and deaths at work will have, at last, disappeared.

The time has come to follow the signs at the crossroads marked “Respect Matters.”

We have done many great things already to reduce the personal and public toll of workplace injuries. We train, educate, promote, encourage, meet, network, audit, advocate and much, much more. Thousands have also joined hands to raise the bar in preparing new and young workers for their entry into the world of work.

The great news is that hundreds upon hundreds of young people’s lives have been saved because of this work, and thousands upon thousands of others have averted devastating injuries that would have changed their lives forever. But there are caveats.

The first caveat is that in areas where more advanced standards of young worker safety have not been embraced, deaths and critical injuries can be up to almost double those of the most progressive regions of the country.

These are the places where education systems still resist young worker awareness in schools and where the focus on putting this issue persistently in the public eye has gone missing. New workers and employers are paying the price for this; emotionally, physically and financially.

The second caveat is that even in the most progressive areas of the country, hundreds of people are still being injured every day, some of them dying. In other words, we have made plenty of progress but this journey is nowhere near over.

This is not just a matter of doing more of the same. It is not about treading water and waiting for the slow ones to catch up. Once again, just as we did when we began to tackle young worker injury with resolve and commitment, it is time to step outside the box.

We need to fast-track new goals and new ways to eliminate the rest of the injuries that are literally injuring and killing so many people while sustaining the gains we have already achieved.

Of course we must still safety-train, educate, promote, encourage, meet, network, audit, advocate and do all the other good things we do. But the next big leap forward is to get serious about simplifying how we go about building, jump-starting and sustaining workplace environments where Respect Matters.

Just as I concluded some years ago that a key factor in turning around young worker injury rates would be to integrate health and safety awareness into core curriculum outcomes in schools, I have reached a similar conviction around integrating the concept “Respect Matters” into Joint Occupational Health and Safety committee practices.

Passport to Safety online was created as a vehicle to make it easy for teachers and employers to move from intentions around outcomes to actual implementation for teens. There needs to be a tool to jump-start the implementation of more respectful, safer and productive environments.

In this case, we don’t need to invent the first part of the approach. Respect in the Workplace online already exists and is the tool I have incorporated as the foundational launch pad for a further three and a half hour session with managers, supervisors and most especially with JOHS committees to enable them to jump right into implementing and sustaining an action plan in their own workplace.

Hence, the launch this week of the Respect Matters Tour, being piloted first in Nova Scotia as a three way partnership between Safety Services Nova Scotia, the Canadian Red Cross and our own Respect Matters Group. This is a prototype for other tours with other partners in other provinces across all sectors and employers.

The model involves us as the content provider partnering with an NGO or other organization wishing to make this tour offering in various locations to its own stakeholders and members. It also can be a revenue-generating opportunity for the NGO with the means and capacity to sign up and register potential attendees. This is exactly the role that Safety Services Nova Scotia has undertaken with us.

Through their networks, we will carry out sessions in seven communities and create additional onsite opportunities for employers who want their JOSH committee to receive an internal half-day training session. In all cases, access to the online Respect in the Workplace course is a pre-workshop assignment.

Canadian Red Cross (CRCF) is hosting workshops in four of its facilities around the province and a portion of proceeds goes to assist CRC RespectEd bullying prevention programs, including those directed toward schools.

I welcome your thoughts on the concepts that underline this article and any opportunity to discuss working directly with the people from organizations who may wish to explore partnership opportunities within your own networks.

I will end simply by repeating my fundamental conviction that a focus on a respectful, caring workplace is the key to the next wave of profound changes around workplace safety. Respectful safe workplaces are made, not born. They can be jump-started, sustained and continuously improved with effective tools, at relatively low cost and high value while reducing risk, increasing productivity and upgrading customer and employee satisfaction.


Official press release announcing the Respect Matters Tour


Paul Kells

Workplace Respect and Safety Champion, Culture Change Expert and Inspiring Speaker

Reach new standards for safe and positive workplace cultures