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Strong voices, safe choices this year’s Safety Week theme

Angela Gismondi
Strong voices, safe choices this year’s Safety Week theme

Strong voices, safe choices is the theme for Safety Week 2023, which takes place May 1 to 5 this year.

“Technically every day is safety day, every week is safety week, and every month is safety month, but it often takes a special effort to just highlight it. If the industry itself gets together and sends a clear and concise message to everyone that we all want to go home safe and that we want to make sure that happens then we can drive that hopefully down into everyone,” said Craig Lesurf, president at Gillam Group and chair of the League of Champions and the Ontario General Contractors Association’s safety committee.

“Strong voices, safe choices showcases our dedication to creating a culture and an environment where everybody is empowered to step in and speak up.”

The National Day of Mourning on April 28 typically kicks everything off.

“We recognize those that have lost lives and the devastation of families following a workplace accident,” said Lesurf. “That’s looking backwards. Safety Week is more about looking forward. It’s to talk about why and how we can all work safer.”

To mark the week, Gillam Group and the League of Champions will be attending different jobsites.

“We do raffles and draws for prizes, we raise money for safety charities and then we talk about the message,” said Lesurf. “Every single one of our workers, including all the subtrades, are going to get a safety T-shirt…and a pair of glasses so that everybody is cognizant that we care about safety and that we’re showing demonstrable leadership to do that.

“We’re going to do a quick talk on safety…We’re going to have them make the commitment by signing the League of Champions jersey. We have a lot of different things planned.

“We’re going to have special toolbox talks for all of the workers every single day. We’ve got stretch and flex in the morning so that everybody gets a little more stretching so they don’t hurt themselves.”

May is a busy month and there are several other initiatives happening simultaneously, Lesurf pointed out.

Three years ago former MPP Jane McKenna put in a Private Members Bill which passed naming the first Tuesday of May Occupational Safety and Health Day. The first week in May is also Mental Health Week. A number of associations have designated May as safety month and many contractors are holding a variety of activities and events.

Building your safety culture and fit for duty is also going to be a focus over the next month.

“Everybody needs to show up every single day fit for duty,” said Lesurf. “We’ve broken it down into four main elements. There is a mental health component, there is a physical health component, an emotional health component and then a state of competency. Over the four weeks in May we’re going to highlight those elements and talk a little bit about why they are important. Someone can be physically fine, mentally fine but if they show up and someone has been in a tragedy, someone they know is sick or ill or dying, then they may not be emotionally healthy and maybe not fit for duty because they are going to come into work distracted.

“You have to pass all four tests to be there. It’s not just about drugs and alcohol, it’s about being compromised and not actually being fully cognizant that you are going to be safe that day for you and everybody around you.”

He said it’s important to talk about safety issues openly and the industry has been getting better over the years.

“Recent statistics from WSIB show that the LTI (lost-time injury) rate for all Schedule 1 employers was 1.25,” Lesurf explained. “If you went to rate group G1, which is residential, it is at 1.33 and if you go to the ICO sector under G6 it’s .66. So, there we are less than half the Schedule 1 rate in the G6 sector which is ICI non-residential sector.”

Everyone can be a safety leader, Lesurf adds.

“When you talk about safety culture it can be introduced at the top of the organization and pushed down but it needs to rebound to really truly be a safety culture where people on the field level, front lines, the people that are exposed with the greatest risks, they care as well about their fellow person beside them,” said Lesurf.

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