It’s hard to believe, but development of the Workplace Safety Action Plan for Nova Scotia’s Health and Community Services Sectors started over one year ago. What a year it has been!
We began the planning process in 2016 with research into best practices, a literature and document review, as well as interviews with key OHS experts. We then launched an extensive stakeholder engagement process that included in-person consultations, focus groups, and an online survey, in which over 1,200 stakeholders participated.
These two reports set the foundation for the next major stage of the project – working groups. In early 2017, five working groups were established: safe handling and mobility; workplace violence; slips, trips, and falls; mental health and wellness; and stay-at-work/return-to-work. Over 90 people representing the health and community services sectors provided strategic advice and recommendations through this stage. To mark the conclusion of this significant engagement, a symposium was held that brought all project stakeholders together.
There is still much work to come however, and the next few months will be critical in development of the final plan. The Project Steering Committee will come together in August to review and prioritize the recommended actions from the working groups. A draft action plan will be presented to the Project Sponsors and once approved, it will be ready to be considered by the Department of Health and Wellness.
We know that the face of workplace safety is changing, and it’s not just about hardhats, work boots, or fall arrest harnesses. While those are still critical, that equipment doesn’t protect care workers from the hazards they face daily.
Safety considerations are different when a workplace is also where someone lives. We need to find a way to encourage safer outcomes and reduce the injury rate in health and community services. Safety must be made a priority in each and every organization.
Working in the care sectors isn’t simple, and there are no easy solutions to improving safety outcomes. But the safety conversation is just beginning, and with the right people at the table, I’m confident we’ll be able to produce a long-term action plan that will make a positive difference. From government and organized labour, to employers and front-line workers, we are all united to achieve this goal.
Project Lead and AWARE-NS Executive Director