Healthy Living in the North

Putting the Health in “Health & Safety”

Centre for Healthy Living JOHSC

Members of the Centre for Healthy Living JOHSC enjoying their lunch break at their site’s community garden plot. Left to right: Nancy Viney, Sabrina Dosanjh, Virginia Dekker, Sherry Ogasawara, Loraina Stephen, Tanya Schilling.

Less than a year ago the Centre for Healthy Living (CFHL; the home of Northern Health’s population health team) in Prince George recognized that to best meet the safety needs of the growing number of site members, we needed to form a Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee (JOHSC). As the employer representative, I collaborated with a “worker” representative to pull together the members of our JOHSC.

Northern Health has worked with the unions in each facility across the region in Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees (JOHSC) for some time now, and currently have over 50 committees that work with NH Workplace Health & Safety to ensure healthy and safe practices are taken while at work.

When I began recruiting for the CFHL JOHS Committee, it seemed that many folks weren’t initially keen to become a JOSHC member but I assured those teetering on the fence that they would be joining an entertaining and rewarding committee. Okay, perhaps I fibbed and told folks that there would be door prizes and live entertainment at our meetings…guilty as charged. But, you know, we’ve managed to enjoy our time together as we tackle agenda items and it’s a guarantee that we’ll erupt into noisy laughter at least once or twice a meeting (and we’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the rest of the site for our rowdy behaviour). But, truly, isn’t that key to a healthy workplace – sharing a laugh with colleagues while engaging in the work at hand? Isn’t the social work environment a vital component to workplace health and safety?

Somewhere in between the necessary and essential tasks such as workplace inspections, code red development and urging site members to complete their WHMIS certs and recerts (and to those at the CFHL who are delinquent…you can run but you can’t hide), there has to be time to support one another in balancing emotional and social health. And let’s not forget about promotion of, and support for, positive personal health practices such as healthy eating while at work and healthy coping strategies for stress. Perhaps it’s time for JOHS Committees to pay as much attention to health as we do to safety.

I know that keeping the electrical cords secured to prevent my tripping and falling keeps me healthy while at work… but so do opportunities to participate in a walking meeting or celebrate a Friday afternoon with yogurt, fruit and granola parfaits (honestly, these beat a box of donuts any day). The attention that JOHS Committees dedicate to the physical work environment, including violence prevention initiatives, hazard inspections, and incident investigations is important (and I urge you to send your local JOHSC members a warm thank you for the work they do to keep you safe), but so is attention to building a health-promoting workplace. We want our employee to have access to meaningful opportunities for their adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviours! On behalf of our JOHSC at the CFHL, we issue a challenge to all other Northern Health JOHS Committees… let’s bring the “H” back into JOHSC!

And for people outside of Northern Health, if you have committees similar to NH JOHSC, tell us: how do you strike a balance between advocating for both safety and health? Send us your tips!

Tanya Schilling

About Tanya Schilling

Tanya Schilling is the northern interior Team Lead for Population Health. Located in Prince George, Tanya’s portfolio provides support to the regional injury prevention, tobacco reduction and community nutrition teams. As a registered nurse, Tanya has worked in a variety of public health and acute maternal/child positions as well as served as an instructor to the UNBC Northern Collaborative Baccalaureate Nursing Program. She is currently working to complete her Masters in Nursing from UNBC and in her “spare” moments, enjoys time with her family including hikes with her husband and their fur babies, an evil Sudoku puzzle, and cheering on their children as they pursue their varied sporting, academic, and employment endeavors. (Tanya no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)