OHS Canada Magazine

Too often, it’s still ‘safety second’

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November 22, 2019
By Marcel Vander Wier

Health & Safety Human Resources Young Workers OHS Canada Policy safety training

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.


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