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Conference explores the ‘stickiness’ of the health and safety message

Peter Caulfield
Conference explores the ‘stickiness’ of the health and safety message

The 880 delegates who attended the recent 2019 Western Conference on Safety (WCS) heard keynote speaker Eldeen Pozniak tell them how to ensure their message about workplace safety is remembered.

“How do we make safety messages stick?” said Pozniak. “Why can someone remember a rumour or a story told over a couple of drinks but walk out of a safety meeting and not remember what was said?”

Pozniak, senior safety consultant at Pozniak Safety Associates Inc. in Saskatoon, says safety professionals who struggle to get their message across need to recognize the “stickiness” aspects of successful communication – simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and stories. 

Pozniak says it’s hard to get people to pay attention to a message about safety because most listeners ignore things that are not important to them, no matter what the topic is.

“Credible ideas make people believe, emotional ideas make people care, concrete and simple concepts and stories make people act,” she said.

The 2019 WCS, which took place April 8-9, 2019 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Vancouver.

“The conference, which has taken place every year in Vancouver since 1996, is aimed at front-line safety personnel,” said conference chairman Terry Swain, president of Pacific Safety Center Ltd., which hosted the event.

Swain says WCS is popular because “people take away a lot of valuable tools.”

“And we have topics that are hot and good speakers that people in the safety sector want to hear,” he said.

Most of the delegates come from B.C., but also eastern Canada, the U.S. and even South Africa.

One of the delegates was Lui Garcea, director of marketing and strategic partnerships at the BC Construction Safety Alliance (BCCSA).

Six BCCSA staffers attended the conference.

“It’s not just for the construction industry,” said Garcea. “Because it’s a general safety conference for front-line workers, it’s an opportunity for BCCSA to network with people from across the western Canada safety sector. Most workplace safety issues are the same.”

Al Johnson, vice-president of prevention services at WorkSafeBC, gave the conference’s welcoming remarks.

“WorkSafe is a big supporters of the conference,” said Johnson. “It’s a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-learn conference that brings together good speakers and people with a thirst to learn.”

Johnson says the workplace and the nature of work are both changing and today more attention being paid to such safety issues as violence, bullying, mental health, fatigue and cannabis.


A psychologically safe workplace is free of excessive fear or chronic anxiety,

— Glyn Jones



“Fortunately, more employers are engaged in these challenges and have a good understanding of their health and safety responsibilities today,” he said.

Psychologist Glyn Jones discussed workplace mental health and psychological safety.

“We know that physical health is an important indicator of employee work readiness, job performance and workplace safety,” said Jones, with EHS Partnerships Ltd. in Calgary. “It is becoming recognized that mental health problems and psychological safety deficiencies are also important and are a significant cause of workplace incidents.”

Jones says an estimated 80 per cent of serious workplace incidents are caused by human error.

“Some of these errors are due to organizational weaknesses while others are due to individual worker factors, such as memory failure and not paying attention to the task at hand,” he said. “Mental health claims are the fastest growing category of disability costs in Canada.”

Jones says that when workplace demands exceed employees’ resources and coping abilities, their mental health is negatively affected.

“If work plans fail to recognize these limitations, the psychological safety of employees is threatened,” he said. “A psychologically safe workplace is free of excessive fear or chronic anxiety and manages factors that may increase this impact.”

Jones says the most common strategy for building a mentally healthy and psychological safe is by developing and implementing formal programming. “This will help directly and indirectly by increasing productivity, which will improve financial performance, reduce organizational risk and build employee engagement,” he said.

Next year’s Western Conference on Safety takes place April 6-7, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver.

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