RIGHT BRAIN / LEFT BRAIN: Of two minds about our national standard for psychologically healthy and safe workplaces

Posted by on Jun 3, 2015 in Articles, Culture Change, Workplace Respect, Workplace Safety | 0 comments

One of the great challenges for organizations trying to understand what to make of Canada’s relatively new voluntary standards for psychological health and safety is to wrap their minds around where to begin. There is absolutely no question that the emergence of Canada’s new National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the spring of 2013 was a landmark step forward. We can be proud to be citizens of a country in which government, the private sector and the not-for-profit Canadian Standards Association could come together and create such an important new framework aimed at building a safer and healthier society. However, while the architects and supporters of these new national standards have followed up with a series of how-to guides, to anyone on the outside looking in this still seems like a tough and complicated thing to take on. Before I describe what I offer up as the most efficient and effective start point, it is important to discuss the context for how this important new standard has been brought forward. It offers considerable comfort and direction on the administrative and system side of a psychologically healthier workplace because of the framework it was built upon. For those seeking to accelerate the people and culture change side toward a more positive, inspiring, healthier and safer workplace culture, the path is not clear. The new standards have been laid out in a way that makes them easier to integrate into existing OHS ramps or other systems that rely upon documentation of processes. This is particularly useful for large organizations because there’s a well-known framework for implementation. This is very much a left-brain document, organized and designed to complement and build upon existing occupational health and safety regimes that govern workplace practices in many organizations, particularly larger ones.  It contains not only the 13 recommended standards for compliance but also tightly organized information on how to plan, implement and evaluate progress. The reality is that large and well-organized institutions with mature OHS systems will be the first adopters of the new standards because they have the wherewithal to do it. Meanwhile the widespread integration of these voluntary standards across smaller businesses or other organizations unfamiliar with such advanced concepts will take much longer. Thus, while this linear connection with past Occupational Health & Safety policies and procedures is one of its strengths, it also carries with it the inherent limitations of the system we have built over the last 100 years. The limitations are these: systems, policies, rules, regulations, punishment, discipline and dogma do not move people to change to safer, healthier workplace cultures. People do this. I discovered, from the inquest into my son Sean’s death at work, that...

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Up-Stander: Kevin Vickers

Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Articles, Culture Change, Up-Stander, Workplace Respect, Workplace Safety | 0 comments

This week’s Up-stander at first glance may seem obvious to many people, as millions of Canadians will instantly understand why Kevin Vickers clearly deserves this and a whole lot more recognition for what he did on Wednesday two weeks ago in our nation’s capital. I have more reasons to be grateful for what Kevin did, because of his impact on my daughter Robin, who works with him in the House of Commons. Recently, I was the keynote speaker at the Canada’s Safest Employer Awards celebration in Toronto, less than a week following the events on parliament Hill. The subject of this week’s Up-standers piece, Kevin Vickers, is embodied within the text of the speech I delivered to award winners and attendees that night. ————————————————— “It is my privilege to be with you tonight. We are here to honour great achievements created by inspiring people who have made Canada a better place to live, learn, work and play. It is their core values, your core values that bring us together, at this time, in this place. You – have embraced workplace cultures that are built on civility and respect, and on the physical and psychological protection of the people you work with. You – already understand that a life lost or damaged, or a life saved or healed, isn’t about rules and regulations. It is about people – people committed to breathe life and soul into the values that such rules are based upon. I like the way Dr. Kevin Kelloway of Saint Mary’s university puts it. Kevin says a healthy workplace is one that promotes dignity: both the dignity you and I earn through our work and the innate human dignity within every human being. And he says, dignity comes from respect for ourselves, our respect for others and the perception that others respect us. Workplaces that function in the absence of dignity and respect are far more dangerous places for our families and friends or anyone else to work in. A healthy workplace, a safer workplace, Kevin says, is one that embraces, promotes and nurtures dignity, and with it, respect. I want to tell you two, very personal stories with two very different endings that explain why I personally know this to be so true. The first story is about an unsafe, unhealthy workplace where, in the absence of dignity, respect, civility and physical and psychological protection, everything went wrong. Almost 20 years ago to the day, 19 year-old Sean was on the third day of a new job. He poured thick fluid from a large drum into smaller cans, preparing them for shipment to automobile dealers to undercoat new vehicles. What Sean did not know was that this liquid was...

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Up-Standers: The RCMP

Posted by on Jun 8, 2014 in Articles, Up-Stander, Workplace Safety | 0 comments

It is difficult to accept or even fathom the horrific events of Wednesday and the days that followed this past week when three RCMP officers lost their lives and two others were injured in Moncton, New Brunswick at the hands of someone a former Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP has described as a monster. While the “monster” ended his demented adventure by raising his hands and saying “It’s over” walking away unharmed, the people he killed died on the job and those he wounded were injured in their workplace – the streets of the communities where we live and work. It is no solace for anyone that those who take on roles as police officers, firefighters, emergency service workers and even soldiers understand going in that their duties may place them at much higher risk than for the rest of us. All of us owe our first responders a huge debt of gratitude for their service and their courage and for accepting the risks of their commitment to their duties. No one expects to go to work in the morning and not come home at the end of the day. Nor do their families and friends. The loss to those left behind is what matters most, not some abstraction that the risks were somehow known beforehand. It is not about potential risks and subsequent consequences. Someone who was deeply, personally loved left home early in the morning and was lost forever before nightfall. As someone who lost a child at work I can only say this. My heart goes out to the wives, children and parents of these people for the loss of those they loved so much and the harm that has come to others. — Paul Kells Workplace Respect and Safety Champion, Culture Change Expert and Inspiring Speaker Reach new standards for safe and positive workplace cultures www.paulkells.com...

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Respect Matters

Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Articles, Workplace Respect, Workplace Safety | 0 comments

    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...

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The Elephant in the Room: Bridging the Risk Gap for New and Young Workers

Posted by on Mar 9, 2014 in Articles, Workplace Safety | 1 comment

The workplace injury data tells the tale. Evidence says new and young workers are three to six times more likely to be injured in their first six months on the job depending on where they live.  New workers are those who have moved from one job to another either with their current employer or to another job somewhere else. Young workers are those under the age of twenty-five. This is not “news” to anyone in the “safety” business. We need to recognize the elephant in our room. As a country, we are not good enough at bridging the risk gap for new and young workers. We all pay the price for this. The cost is greatest for those who suffer injuries or even lose their lives because of our inability to deal with the elephant. That is the bad news.  The good news is these are problems with solutions. There are exceptional employers who do get this right. More often than not their workplaces are among the most dangerous of all in terms of their potential for harm to health, safety and the environment. Failures or mistakes leading to explosions, structural or mechanical collapses or other catastrophic events can not only cost lives but also damage to property and the environment on a massive scale. So for these organizations, there is no option but to manage every possible risk. The result is zero injury for all workers; the new and young  included. So that means there are proven best practices already available. The reasonable questions to ask then are: What has been missing for everyone else until now? What are the best practices of those who have already have this figured out? What are the guiding principles that work that will lead us to success? What new barriers are coming our way that we need to account for now? What framework, tactics and tools do we need to operationalize worker employee start-ups better? Put another way, what are the new standards and actions required to orientate, train, supervise and mentor those who are transitioning to new jobs or entering our workforce at a young age in order to keep them out of harm’s way? The Respect Matters workshop covers this entire area in some detail, but for now I will briefly highlight only a couple of key elements. First, there are three areas where improvement is required and where those who have succeeded already have managed to integrate them into best practice. 1. Adequate supervision and hands-on oversight According to a study by the Institute of Work and Health, 75% new worker injuries occur when no supervisor is present. There are solutions other than placing one supervisor beside a...

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Three Part Series on Workplace Bullying

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Articles, Workplace Respect, Workplace Safety | 0 comments

My series on workplace respect and bullying prevention caught the eye of Ben Snyman, Founder of E-Compliance and sparked an invitation to write a three part series for his company.  These article titles and links are below.  They represent some of the new and critically important ideas that connect workplace respect with underlying causes of physical workplace injuries.  Understanding these concepts can mitigate risks at work, especially to new and young workers.     Workplace Bullying:  Why Should I Care         Workplace Bullying: The Shifting Legal Landscape       Workplace Bullying: Facing Up To...

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