The construction industry is well recognized for its perilous work environment. A 2016 report, from the Association ofWorkers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, revealed thatconstruction had the most fatalities, claiming almost one third of the total number across Canadian businesses. As an industry that is continually handling hazardous materials and engaging in challenging situations, it is of utmost importance for both employees and employers to be mindful of workplace health and safety policies and procedures.
As a business owner, there are a variety of ways to ensure health and safety measures are being met on the jobsite. For starters, in order to aid in the prevention of workplace accidents and injuries, employers must adhere to the Canada Labour Code (part II), as well as the standards set out in the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. This includes the requirement to provide employees with things such as: the necessary information, training and supervision needed to ensure their health and safety while at work; as well as, prescribed safety materials, equipment, devices and clothing, and the knowledge of their use.
Additionally, employers are expected to provide the support and resources essential for the operation of policy and work place committees. In fact, as outlined by the Government of Canada, such committees are often referred to as an “internal responsibility system,” and are required for all federal work places, in order “to assist in protecting the health and safety of employees.” Larger companies, with more than 300 employees, have the added requirement ofestablishing a “policy health and safety committee,” in order to better address global issues.
While it is up to up to the employers to help facilitate such committees, it is the responsibly of employees toparticipate in them. After all, while on the job site, employeesneed to take reasonable and necessary precautions to secure their own health and safety, as well as that of those aroundthem, while working. According to the Canada LabourCode (part II), the following are some of the requirements employees must adhere to: use all the safety materials, equipment, devices and clothing provided by their employer;follow all instruction from the employer regarding the health and safety of all employees; and report to their employer, any hazardous thing or circumstance placing individuals in the work place at risk.Consequently, in order to report hazardous items, it is imperative that employees are well aware of the information provided by the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, otherwise known as, WHMIS. Under regulation 860, it is the employer’s responsibility to collect health and safety information about hazardous materials in their workplace, and pass this information on to their employees. There are three ways this information can be distributed to workers: via the labels on the containers of hazardous materials; through material safety data sheets (MSDSs); and lastly, through employee education programs.
While being cognizant of hazardous materials is a great benefit to employees, both on and off the jobsite, workers also need to acknowledge the safety of their physical workspace. For example, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), employees must consistently be aware of issues, such as: keeping the work site orderly; properly disposing of scrap, waste and surplus materials; and ventilating all storage areas properly.
While there is much work to be done on the job site, employees must also be aware of maintaining their health and safety off the job site. This includes closely monitoring their physical and mental wellbeing. Most physical symptoms can be easily detected when one falls ill, however mental healthtriggers may not be as easily recognizable. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “in any given week, approximately 500,000 Canadian workers will not go to work due to mental health issues.”
Stress is all too common, and is a great contributor to mental health issues. As outlined by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario in their 2006 Basic Certification Training Program: Participant’s Manual, stress can lead one to lose sleep, and/or feel anxious, or reckless, in addition to other indications. When individuals engage in such behaviors they are more likely to make errors in judgment, increase the potential for physical strains and sprains, and become momentarily distracted. As such, it is important to try and reduce one’s stress levels, by following practices such as the ones suggested by CCOHS: take several deep breaths throughout the day; have regular stretch breaks; and organize and prioritize your day.
After all, whether a business owner or laborer, as one tries to cope with all the potential industry stressors on and off the job site, as noted throughout the various policies and procedures, employers and employees must work together to ensure a healthy and safe workplace for all.