OHS Canada Magazine

Key resolutions for OHS leaders in 2022


January 26, 2022
By Lisa McGuire

Health & Safety Human Resources 2022 editor pick Emergency Management safety Trends

With 2021 behind you, it’s time to review your health and safety performance from the past year to help you plan

After another tough year, OHS professionals are looking to regroup in 2022. (sirisakboakaew/Adobe Stock)

The past year was challenging for businesses across Canada and around the world.

The pandemic, supply chain issues, labour shortages, and extreme weather events challenged our ability to keep workers healthy and safe on the job.

As a leader, it is essential to look to the future and decide how to integrate health and safety into the DNA of your business.

Consider adopting these resolutions in 2022 to shape a path forward to achieve this goal.

Reflect and plan adjustments to improve 

With 2021 behind you, it’s time to review your health and safety performance from the past year to help you plan.

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To target areas to improve, consider past performance (lagging indicators such as injury rate metrics) and predictive measures (leading indicators such as training or supporting a health and safety system certification).

Establish a clear plan in consultation with your safety committee or representative — an important annual activity that should be a standing action item in your business plan every year.

Health and safety performance can directly impact organizational results, so consider that as you set goals for the year. Ensure that a health and safety plan is developed, maintained, and executed every year.

Practise your emergency response and business continuity plan 

If 2021 taught us anything, it’s that emergencies will happen — it’s only a matter of when.

In B.C., we faced record-setting heat and cold temperatures in addition to an extreme forest fire season and catastrophic flooding. And this was on top of the ongoing and ever-changing pandemic.

Every business requires a comprehensive emergency response and business continuity plan to help you manage through the dynamic conditions of a crisis.

Be prepared before an emergency happens, ensuring that workers and employers have the right equipment and processes in place — with training and regular practice sessions to test the plan’s effectiveness.

Not having a plan can have catastrophic consequences for your business — including injuries or fatalities, financial losses, and damage to property and reputation.

In addition to enabling business continuity, rehearsing your plan can uncover previously unrecognized hazards.

As we continue to deal with the impact of climate change, a well-designed emergency response plan is a critical priority for every business owner and leader.

Practise visible leadership 

Make preventing accidents and injuries a top priority for 2022, and practise visible leadership that reinforces positive health and safety actions.

Be a role model. Set a tone that reflects the commitment to safety that you want everyone in the company to adopt.

Look for opportunities to connect with workers through walkabouts and appreciative inquiry. Talk to front-line workers about their tasks and ask them what they need to be safe at work.

Asking meaningful questions opens up two-way dialogue across all levels of the organization.

Improving company communication helps create an environment where every employee feels comfortable bringing safety concerns to the table.

Take a new focus on mental health 

Research suggests that the mental health impacts of the pandemic and other disasters in 2021 will last well after the end of the events.

It’s time to stop thinking of mental health as something that only affects people outside of work and eliminate the stigma of shame and fear around mental illness.

One in five Canadian employees will experience a mental health issue at some point in their working lives.

Mental health issues can increase absenteeism, reduce productivity, increase turnover and accidents, and cause burnout. Stress (work-related and other) can contribute to other illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal disturbances, headaches and diabetes.

The demand for employer-provided mental health support and programs will continue to rise to meet the increasing need. Consider new solutions to address mental wellness in the workplace, including employee assistance programs (EAPs), flexible work policies that support mental health, and work environments that reduce and prevent burnout.

Look for opportunities to increase the mental health literacy of your supervisors and team so that they can be alert for signs that an employee is struggling. Consider options such as mental health first aid.  

Make training a priority 

With the potential for more in-person activities and a breadth of training offered in virtual spaces, now is the time to get ahead of your health and safety training in 2022.

Review your 2021 training and skills matrix to look for gaps, opportunities for cross-training, and adequate funding to invest in your people.

In today’s volatile environment, new and emerging risks require training to help employees achieve performance objectives.

Consider whether employees may need refresher training since they started in their current role.

What has changed in their jobs and your workplace since they started? How equipped are workers to complete their daily tasks safely without putting themselves — or their co-workers — at risk?

Investing in a comprehensive health and safety training program reduces injuries and illness, saves costs in absenteeism and decreased productivity, and contributes to positive workplace culture.

Get everyone involved 

Complacency is one of the primary causes of accidents and injuries at work.

Look for opportunities to involve your workers and safety committee in creating a safer work environment for everyone. Input from the whole team is vital to building a safer workplace.

Take time to involve workers from every area and role in setting and maintaining your company’s health and safety goals. Acknowledge and recognize safe behaviours to reinforce a positive safety culture.  

Innovative ideas surface from every employee level in the workplace — not just the boardroom. Progressive leadership recognizes and harnesses their ideas to the greatest potential.  

Take care of yourself 

Mental and physical demands on leaders in today’s changing business landscape sometimes feel unrelenting. Leaders need to care for themselves as they care for their team.

A leader’s capacity for high performance diminishes without adequate rest and recovery time. Investing in your health, safety, and mental wellness by allowing for the necessary downtime to recharge is critical for the continued success of your business.

By role-modelling self-care, you give permission for others to take care of themselves as well. Walking the talk includes taking care of yourself.

A safer and healthier workplace is always a worthwhile resolution. Make it a priority for 2022.

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

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