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IHSA COVID-19 risk guide meets industry demand for guidance

Dan O'Reilly
IHSA COVID-19 risk guide meets industry demand for guidance

Judging by the more than 300 downloads for the online version, there is pent up demand for a COVID-19 risk assessment guide or ‘tool’ created and produced by the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA).

And that doesn’t include direct mail out of approximately 133,000 copies which were included as a supplement in the association’s quarterly magazine last summer.

Officially titled Risk Assessment COVID-19, the nine-page “step by step” guide highlights the signs for identifying the virus, the measures needed to control its spread, and the respective responsibilities of managers, supervisors, health and safety representatives, and workers.

“We wanted it to be in plain language and as simple as possible,” says the association’s stakeholder and client engagement director, Michelle Roberts.

It’s not a document solely intended for high-level managers and a major objective is to emphasize that workers, managers, supervisors, health and safety representatives all have an important role in taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus, she says.

“COVID-19 is another workplace hazard and each workplace is different based on the tasks, individuals and circumstances, however the principle of managing hazards and risks is the same.”

The process involves recognizing, assessing, and evaluating the risks, with the fourth and final step consisting of evaluating and reviewing the controls needed to eliminate, or at least, minimize the risks, she says.

With the use of an inverted pyramid-style image, the guide underscores the critical importance of a “hierarchy of controls” in which the most effective measure is controlling the virus at its source.

“It (the guide) evolved as we went through it,” says Roberts, explaining IHSA has been conducting a series of COVID risk control initiatives since the first pandemic shutdown last March including publishing pamphlets and conducting webinars.

Asked why the association went to the next stage to produce the tool, she said the purpose was to create an easy-to-use guide for its construction, electrical, and transportation industry sector clients across the province.

Identifying and controlling workplace hazards is required of all employers in Ontario under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and, if regulated by the federal government, under the Canada Labour Code and its regulations, says Roberts, who believes the guide will help industries comply with those regulations.

Work on the tool started in April 2020 with the goal of aligning it with the publication and distribution of the magazine in July. Although it only took about two weeks to prepare the content, distilling that content into an easy-to-follow process which can used across those multiple industry sectors took some time, says Roberts.

The content and format were primarily determined by Roberts and research and stakeholder & public coordinator Charlie Charalambous, but they were able to draw on the resources and assistance of other departments, she says.

A hundred and fifty copies were printed and the guide was also posted on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Initial feedback from the association’s stakeholders has been very positive, says Roberts, pointing out it can be easily downloaded at no charge.

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