OHS Canada Magazine

Safety Leadership: Preparing for tomorrow’s health and safety landscape

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June 5, 2023
By Lisa McGuire

Health & Safety leadership

Photo: Adobe Stock

As leaders, we are encouraged to be resilient and adaptable. To be nimble and quick in responding to an ever-changing landscape and accelerating technological advances. Businesses have had to shift quickly to meet situations that are new and demanding, in health and safety and in almost every other part of their operations.

Achieving this level of agility requires a deep understanding of workforce and culture. Effective leaders begin by understanding their teams’ composition and diversity in generations, ethnicity, and gender; and considering the skills and education employees bring to the job. They find ways to build trust with team members and take the time to establish and reinforce a consistent vision — valuing the input, opinions, and contribution of the team to the business.

In a keynote at our Make It Safe conference last fall, Catherine Roome, co-founder of Pulse Technologies, reminded us that skills can be learned, and that engaged workers who are invested in company success and willing to adapt are key to helping businesses thrive.

Business leaders can grow their teams’ skills and expertise by providing opportunities, encouraging ongoing training, and coaching experienced employees to mentor younger team members. The continued practice of applying existing knowledge and expertise to new situations helps everyone on the team learn to pivot and adapt faster to change.

The growing needs and skills for manufacturers

The future of manufacturing is in technology, in strategic operations and — from an OHS perspective — in applying these strategies to eliminate high-risk tasks and retrain teams to perform work that requires more skill and less physical risk.


On average, 34 per cent of all WorkSafeBC claims result from musculoskeletal injuries — from lifting, twisting, and repetitive motion. To decrease the number of MSI injuries, many manufacturers have already incorporated robotics and automation. However, beyond fewer MSI injuries, what does this mean for manufacturers? How will this shift in needs change the future skills required by our teams and our OHS professionals? And how will this impact your workforce culture?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing our world quickly. In manufacturing, the need is growing for new technical skills and a re-training of existing employees both to use new technologies and to understand the associated risks and benefits.

Beyond information security, cybersecurity also has implications for operational safety. When performing a comprehensive risk assessment, OHS professionals need to consider cyberthreats and other new safety risks. One of the most critical issues we face in the OHS profession today is the need to prepare safety practitioners to understand, assess, and effectively manage and control these evolving risks.

Identifying experts in new technologies and the health and safety impacts is critical to ensure that we can make the best possible decisions for the businesses we lead.

Every business is different

These are just a few of many considerations that business leaders and owners wrestle with as we look into the future. Taking time now to ask questions will help us map the best way forward.

As leaders, we feel the weight of competing priorities. We routinely have to expand our own knowledge to understand the potential risk and opportunity for our businesses and ensure that our teams and businesses are protected. Successful leaders listen and reflect to identify needs and take action.

The road may be unclear, but by working transparently alongside our teams, we can build a sustainable culture where people feel supported and empowered. Together, we can refine our plans to reimagine a healthier, safer, and more sustainable workplace.

Lisa McGuire is the CEO of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance in Chilliwack, B.C.


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