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Too often, it’s still ‘safety second’

Properly equipping and protecting workers should always be priority No. 1


Proper training and adherence to workplace safety policies can be the difference between life and death. (Adobe Stock)

A friend I once met in the Yukon told me a story I’ll never forget. It popped back into my mind soon after I accepted my new role as editor of OHS Canada.

Growing up, her adventurous father consistently encouraged her to explore the world with reckless abandon, often concluding his advice to her with the words: “Safety second!”

While I can’t be sure of how many heart-stopping moments occurred on this particular family’s hikes, that phrase became a family mantra and the adventure bug still burns brightly within my friend today as she explores the world with an unmatchable joy.

I will never argue a father’s desire to instill a love for unabashed exploration of the world within his kids, but when it comes to the workplace, safety is an entirely different matter. Yet, somehow “safety second” continues to be a mindset that lingers with today’s employers.

I’ve lived my fair share of adventures on account of journalism, covering too many breaking news stories where a safety-first mentality could have kept situations off the front page.

And I’ve endured my own safety mishaps. I’ve felt bone-jarring volts course through my body in the rain while installing an electric fence with my brothers. During my college days, I sliced my hand opening boxes of oil filters while working part-time. And the tips of my nose and toes still turn a special shade of white each winter as a result of frostnip I picked up while photographing huskies on the Yukon Quest trail in 40-below temperatures.

But every one of those incidents pale in comparison to the stories I’ve had come across my desk during my first weeks on the job here at OHS Canada.

A temporary worker crushed to death by a machine in Toronto. A government employee dead after a machine snatched her scarf at a Quebec cranberry farm. Edmonton window-washers hanging on for dear life as a windstorm flung their platform around like a wrecking ball. Truly scary stuff.

I’ve quickly come to realize that properly equipping and protecting workers should always be priority No. 1 for employers in all industries. And while most would nod in agreement at this in theory, too often safety is cast aside in lieu of cost, speed or ignorance. Training can remain non-existent or rushed. Safety equipment rules are ignored in favour of comfort. Common sense is an expectation, when it should be taught.

With all of this in mind, I am excited to join the OHS Canada brand and bring you the latest safety stories from across the country in a variety of mediums. For all of the reasons above, it’s important that industry tips and trends remain in your inboxes, newsfeeds and magazines to ensure health and safety remain top of mind at workplaces right across Canada.

And I look forward to connecting with you, dear reader, to hear about your experiences of choosing safety above all else. These stories need to be shared.

Because in the world of work, anything less than “safety first” is simply unacceptable.

This editorial was published in the Nov/Dec 2019 issue of OHS Canada.

Marcel Vander Wier

Marcel Vander Wier

Editor of OHS Canada
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1 Comment » for Too often, it’s still ‘safety second’
  1. Marty Dol says:

    Congratulations on the new post Marcel!

    Re: Too often, it’s still ‘safety second’

    Great post. It brings to light that some employers are truely winging it out there, when it comes to Health and Safety practices. That being said, I have incredible examples of fantastic approachs from many clients, some that have won awards. Then there are those in between these two extremes.

    Your post mentioned that “Common sense is an expectation, when it should be taught.” Well, it is taught, and from a very early age – our “common sense” comes from our parents, care takers, and experiences in life. This forms our beliefs and values about safety.

    I’d like to propose that employers train employees to a standard of care, and then become reliant on the “common knowledge” they all share about safety expectations. Attaining common knowledge could be the starting point where we lean less, and less, on “common sense.” (Besides, you know and I know, that our parents taught us many “wonderful” life tricks, some more dangerous than others.)

    Health and safety training solves only a lack of skill or knowledge, rather than supporting a common “sense” or “feeling” that something is not safe, or not right in some way (or vise-versa).

    Common sense is great, just don’t rely on it when it comes to health and safety expectations at work.

    Be safe out there!

    Marty Dol, CTDP
    President, Founder, & CEO
    HASCO Health & Safety Canada

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