Voluntary or mandatory, standards play a big role in workplace safety
By CSA Group
When health and safety professionals take inventory of the many tools in their toolbox, standards may not immediately come to mind.
However, whether mandated in regulation or implemented voluntarily, standards can and do play a significant role in the health and safety policies and processes of organizations.
As employers navigate COVID-19 and strive to build more diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible workplaces, the need for standards and new research has never been greater.
Candace Sellar, a 14-year CSA Group veteran, shares more about the relevance of standards for OHS professionals and what her sector is focused on this year and beyond.
What is your role at CSA Group?
I am a program manager for CSA Group’s Worker and Public Safety sector, part of CSA Group’s Standards organization. My team is responsible for facilitating the development of a wide variety of standards including personal protective equipment, OHS management systems, worker wellness, emergency management and business continuity and transportation safety, just to name a few.
Why should health and safety professionals consider using standards?
Often, standards are used because they are referenced in provincial, territorial, and federal OHS regulations – the regulations define “what” must be done, and the standards often fill in the blanks with the “how.”
Standards can also be implemented voluntarily by organizations that want to exhibit leadership and employ requirements and guidance for a wide variety of reasons. Primarily, an organization may be motivated to implement standards voluntarily for safety reasons to help reduce the risk of injury and work-acquired disability for workers, reduce the potential for end-user consumer injuries, when designing products, or to attract talent.
Organizations may also choose to implement standards voluntarily for reputational and financial reasons.
Regardless of why an organization adopts or implements a standard, the value that they offer is tremendous.
As CSA Group facilitates the development of standards, we rely on the expertise of thousands of volunteer members representing various interests and perspectives.
By selecting committees with balanced representation and adhering to a consensus-based approach, we seek to ensure that CSA Group standards are as thoughtful, representative, and effective as possible. When a government or organization chooses to adopt a CSA Group standard, regardless of the reason, they know that the technical requirements, guidelines, or recommendations included were developed rigorously and informed by the expertise and experience of experts and stakeholders.
How is CSA Group incorporating Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) into your standards work?
IDEA is a strategic priority and focus area within our standards developmentand research work. Incorporating IDEA not only informs how we go about facilitating the development of standards, but it also informs the content of the standards themselves.
CSA Group has published several standards and standard resources to assist stakeholders in incorporating IDEA into workplaces. For example, CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013 (R2018), Psychological health and safety in the workplace – Prevention, promotion, and guidance to staged implementation and SPE Z1003 Implementation Handbook – Assembling the pieces, an implementation guide to the national standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace support the implementation of mental health and wellness initiatives and processes.
We also continue to invest in new standards and research.
For example, we are just beginning work on a new standard providing guidance for helping to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion in apprenticeship programs.
CSA Group is working in lockstep with the standards development community to be sure we’re approaching all standards with an IDEA lens and encouraging input and feedback from diverse experts. For example, we are encouraging organizations and individuals to consider diversity, equity, and inclusion when identifying expert resources to put forward for consideration for CSA Group standards development committees.
We are also now proactively sharing Calls for Participation and notices of Public Review directly with equity seeking groups to encourage inclusive participation and a variety of opportunities to provide feedback.
As an organization and community, we are making progress, but we acknowledge that much more can be done.
What inspired the development of new standards and research?
The pandemic exposed gaps and opportunities in the standards available for health care and wellbeing and worker and public safety. CSA Group recognized that there was a pressing need for guidance and reliable information to help those on the frontlines and other stakeholders to make critical decisions.
Our healthcare team has undertaken extensive work assisting in developing standards and research to help improve infection, prevention and control in health care facilities, long-term care homes and across paramedical services. We also published a made-in-Canada filtering respirator performance standard and undertook research to help inform the development of a Canadian PPE ecosystem that is self-sufficient and better prepared for the next public health emergency.
To address the needs of employers navigating the evolving needs of employees, we have invested in research to inform future standards focused on OHS considerations for reopening and operating during the pandemic and employer psychological health and safety practices in response to COVID-19.
What are some of the opportunities that CSA Group is addressing with respect to OHS?
Not surprisingly, remote work will continue to be a focus for us as we look to advance the development and updating of existing standards. With this, there has been more focus on ergonomics, so new editions are under development for CSA Z412 Office ergonomics — An application standard for workplace ergonomics and CSA Z1004 Workplace ergonomics – A management and implementation standard.
These updates will provide an opportunity to reflect significant lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic in the workplace, and specifically ergonomics in non-traditional work settings.
We’re also working on an update to CSA Z1210 First aid training for the workplace intended to reflect lessons learned during the pandemic with respect to the delivery of first aid curriculum and the standard will be examined to determine if opportunities for improvement exist in consideration of other factors such as geographic location and diversity.
Our focus on PPE will continue with the release of a new edition of CSA Z94.4 Selection, care, and use of respirators, where issues like proper fit, fit testing, cleaning, disinfection, re-use, and comfort are addressed. I am also thrilled to share that CSA Group will release a research paper focused on women and PPE this summer. This much anticipated research will bring to light the pressing need for gender-specific PPE and an assessment of the need for gender-responsive PPE standards. This research was guided by a survey and interviews with women across Canada.