The Toronto Construction Association (TCA) is shifting its commitment to workplace safety into a higher gear, introducing its first Safety Month campaign that will launch in May.
TCA chair Craig Lesurf, vice-president at Walsh Canada, said it is time to raise the bar on safety and heighten awareness of good safety practices, starting with the TCA’s 2,000-plus member companies then extending to their hundreds of thousands of management staff and employees, their friends and families and anyone they work with.
"When I became chair of the TCA in January I made it my own personal mandate," Lesurf said. "Increased safety is what I wanted to accomplish during my tenure. I want to make a difference in Ontario and beyond, it is something we want to share."
The Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) has reported that there were 27,000 injuries in the construction sector across Canada in 2014, and despite the best efforts of associations like the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), which this year debuted its League of Champions safety initiative, and the Ministry of Labour, which has ramped up workplace inspections, among other initiatives, construction fatalities continue at an undiminished pace.
AWCBC figures for three recent years in Ontario in the construction sector indicate there were 73 deaths in 2012, 69 in 2013 and 87 in 2014.
"I have two kids coming into the working world, graduating from school, getting part-time jobs," said Lesurf, who is also chair of the OGCA’s health and safety committee. "I want someone out in the workforce as guardians of the next generation to make sure they are safe. To make sure they have a safe work environment. To make sure they have the training, to make sure safety awareness is there, to make sure everyone goes home safe at the end of the day."
Safety Month will feature distinct themes for each of the four weeks. For May 2 to 6, the theme is A Focus on Safety Education. The TCA will reach out to its members to promote all TCA safety programs and others including The Construction Institute of Canada safety courses, the Certificate of Recognition health and safety certification program for Ontario firms and Ontario Working at Heights training.
The week of May 9 to 13 will feature Rob Ellis, founder of the MySafeWork program. Ellis’s son was killed in a construction accident and Ellis has worked tirelessly since to promote workplace safety among all working people in the sector and in particular among young workers, said Lesurf. Ellis makes presentations across the province at schools and to groups of construction workers and has a highly effective message, added Lesurf.
"Rob is a great asset," Lesurf said. "Rob is a champion for safety and it took a tragedy to bring that about but I think he is making his son proud."
Ellis, with his trademark hockey jersey featuring hundreds of signatures of supporters, is also associated with the new League of Champions safety program initiated by the OGCA. Ellis will be prominent at TCA Members Day on May 11.
"Big picture-wise, we were talking about it at the TCA, and I said, how are we going to do something different in safety?" said Lesurf, banging the table in his Walsh Canada office to emphasize the point.
"I said, I want Rob Ellis to come and speak, he is a very poignant speaker, and he has a great topic and I love the message, and the whole Jersey of Champions, and the League of Champions."
The third week of Safety Month will feature Member Safety Shared Stories. The TCA solicited workplace safety stories from its members and the results are powerful, Lesurf said.
"Shared stories are what make the difference," said Lesurf, who adds people tend to pay rapt attention to anecdotes about construction accidents.
"I would rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than learn them myself.
"The true tragedy of any accident is if you don’t learn something from it. Accidents are preventable and there are ways of making a difference. So by taking the message and spreading it around, I think it is a big deal, and at the TCA, we said, one of the ways to do it was to gather that sort of information."
The TCA member stories will be promoted through social media channels with links to the written chronicles. In fact, Lesurf and the TCA have come up with 31 separate tweets that will go out each day of Safety Month.
Finally, May 23 to 27, the TCA will focus on recognizing members who have won safety awards. Walsh Canada has been named one of the winners of a TCA safety culture award during its 10 years of existence and during Safety Month the TCA will honour two more safety culture winners.
"At the end of the day, everyone has to want to make sure that the person beside them goes home safe," said Lesurf. "That’s what the message is. By having a safety month, we are trying to push that out to our members. And push it out more broadly across Ontario."