Article By: Heather Matthews, AWARE-NS OHS Specialist
We all know that if you want to know the value of a product or service, it’s always best to ask those who have bought it. When it comes to COSP, we asked those that “bought-in” what they saw as the value of the COSP pilot program.
Before I share their thoughts, let me relate my experience since joining COSP five months ago. By the time I arrived participants had already started their journey to a safer workplace for homecare & home support; they had the road map drawn and the foundation started.
It has been a pleasure to work with all of the agencies and partners to continue to develop a Health and Safety Management System for this sector. The level of commitment demonstrated by these agencies to the advancement of safer workplaces has been tremendous. They have committed time and resources and, with their partners (WCB and AWARE-NS), have been able to developed useful tools and training modules.
It is really too early in the process to have hard numbers showing a reduction in injuries, but I want to share a few comments that reflect the option of many who are participating in COSP.

Collaborating with the other organizations within the COSP group has been so valuable. Although we have not seen a reduction in our injuries yet we are headed in the right direction. I am confident the tools that have been developed will help to impact our injuries once they are introduced to staff. Sharing experiences and information with the other members has helped unite us as a group and given momentum to the need to move forward with a safety association for community support. Together we can make an impact on a safer workplace for community support workers.

Lisa Briers, VON

We indeed see the value of sharing best practices. Not surprising we are dealing with changing a cultural mind set, that being said, we did not expect to see a decrease in the number of injuries or severity at this time. We are at the very beginnings of trying to put into practice some new ideas, procedures and practices.

Patricia Bishop- Grant, New Waterford Home Support

The value the COSP project brings to the home support sector, in my opinion, is identification of common, essential practices that ensure employees have a basis for safe occupational outcomes. As well, I hope it will serve as an advocacy tool for establishing standards to be used as a WCB audit, leading to commendations and rate improvements in our industry.

Sandra Bauld, Northwood

About The Author:

Heather Headshot WebHeather Matthews is AWARE-NS’s Occupational Health & Safety Specialist. She received her Bachelor’s degree, majoring in Housing and Facility Management from Mount Saint Vincent University (1989). In 2010, she completed her Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety from Ryerson University. Most recently was the Corporate Health and Safety Manager for Ocean Nutrition Canada a Global Bio Science company where she was responsible for the development and implementation of the Health and Safety program. Developing a strong safety culture though leadership, training and education has been her primary focus.

Article By: Art Brown, AWARE-NS Safety Collaborator
A growing industry in Nova Scotia is home health care. With an aging population, more and more extended care services are being provided in the home environment. Driving to and from clients homes or different workplaces is a necessary task that can be full of hazards that both employers and workers need to control.
Your car, as with every home your enter, is considered a workplace. Your employer will have taken steps to ensure your safety while working in the community but while driving you have the greater degree of control. You must comply not only with the requirements of the NS Motor Vehicle Act but the NS Occupational Health & Safety Act as well. Ensure your Driver’s License, Vehicle Permit and proof of insurance are valid – this is your responsibility. The police do traffic checks for a reason.

Safety Tip #1: Plan the day even though you are familiar with the community.

Planning your route can reduce stress, especially if it means avoiding a 20 minute road construction delay. Always be sure that someone knows where you are. Having the phone GPS function turned on is important if an emergency occurs and you need to be found. Inspect your equipment and restock supplies for the next day when you get home after work and not minutes before leaving the house. So many times we forget something important because of running to catch the garbage truck, rushing kids to the bus or sleeping through the alarm. Be sure to do a few stretches before leaving the house to get your muscles limbered up. You’re going to be in your car a lot and this will go a long way to make driving more comfortable and ready you for the physical requirements of the job when you reach the client. Always carry a first aid / emergency kit and in winter conditions dress appropriately, including proper footwear. Be sure to keep a warm blanket with your gear in case of a breakdown or getting stuck in a snow bank.

Safety Tip #2: Be sure to inspect your car each morning to ensure everything is working.

It is a requirement of law that your vehicle is safe while on the road. Tires need to be rotated every 5,000 to 10,000 km so capitalize on the garage hoist time and have a quick unofficial inspection done. In Nova Scotia cars need to be inspected by a licensed mechanic every 2 years – that sticker on the bottom left of your windshield. Any car over 4 years old will need regular inspections to catch worn brakes, suspension or steering parts before they become a safety hazard and an expensive repair. Be smart – inspect for safety and your pocket book. A blown light bulb may result in a costly ticket.

Safety Tip #3: Check your gear and ensure it is properly stowed in the car.

An emergency stop can result in damage to expensive equipment. Loose items in the car can also become projectiles in an emergency stop. Always use the trunk for computers, medical bags or other loose gear – this can be a good deterrent for thieves and limits your temptation to use the equipment while driving. Also, keep a charger in the car for those times you forget to recharge. Other items for the trunk include the emergency kit and clothing from safety tip #1.

Safety Tip #4: Be aware of road and weather conditions when in your car.

The weather forecast changes on an hourly basis in Nova Scotia. What you saw in the morning forecast before you headed out the door, could change at a moment’s notice. Here are a few ways to stay on top of weather and road conditions. Call the provincial highway condition hotline – 511 for current conditions. Put a weather app on your cell phone or tablet – The Weather Network and Global News Weather are both excellent apps for hourly updates and future-casts. You can also tune into your local radio station while driving for updates. Do not drive in weather conditions that may put you or other’s in danger AND always drive at a safe speed appropriate for road conditions. SUV’s handle better than cars in snow and on ice but they can take more time to stop. Speed just increases the hazard, and remember, you can lose your license for speeding infractions in Nova Scotia – even on the first offense.

Safety Tip #5: No Use Of Mobile Devices When Driving.

The law allows you to answer and talk using a hands free device. However, this action does divert some of your attention from the road so use caution. Just remember the more intensive the conversation the less attention you are paying to the road in front of you. It would be wise to not use any hands free or mobile device when driving in bad weather, heavy traffic , school zones or any other situation where your full attention is needed for driving. Don’t tempt fate and always drive defensively. Plan to take breaks throughout the day to collect your messages, check the weather and road conditions, return phone calls and do your administrative work.

Safety Tip #6: When you arrive at your destination do a scene survey looking for possible hazards.

Note snow covered and or icy walkways, rough and uneven paved driveways and walkways, broken steps and railings, loose pets or farm animals. Prepare and set up an escape route and always back in to be ready for a quick exit. Be sure to place your car keys in a location that can be quickly accessed – on your person at all times is preferred. Take a minute to review the client files before leaving the car. This allows you to get familiar with the client and also see what animals come to investigate your arrival. As you exit the car remember you are transferring from one workplace to another with new hazards needing to be assessed. However, that’s for another day.
What are your tips and strategies to stay safe behind the wheel? Post them here!

About The Author:

Arthur Brown is an accomplished safety professional experienced in the multi-jurisdictional industries of Health, Manufacturing and Transportation. He has been a manager in industry, Inspector Specialist enforcing the Nova Scotia Occupational Health & Safety Act and is currently a Workplace Consultant with the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia coaching industry leaders on safety excellence.

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In an effort to build on the good work currently taking place in the sector, AWARE-NS has designed a strategy which involves the implementation of a standardized health and safety management system (HSMS) for home care/ home support organizations in Nova Scotia. This initiative is being facilitated through a Communities of Safe Practice approach and will include a customized, standardized and progressive Certificate of Recognition (COR) process aligned with the WCB’s proposed rate incentive program.


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The Community of Safe Practice (COSP) Program serves to establish formal peer to peer safety support networks and is designed to make prevention an integral part of health and community services workplaces in Nova Scotia. The COSP program recognizes organizations that make the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses a daily habit by building it into their current management systems. It is based on the premise that an integrated workplace health and safety program will promote organizational excellence. A standardized HSMS is an integrated set of organizational elements involved in a continuous cycle of planning, implementation, evaluation and continual improvement, directed toward the reduction of occupational hazards in the workplace.