Healthy Living in the North

Workplace tragedy is preventable: Steps for Life

This time of year provides us with many opportunities to reflect on the issue of health and safety in the workplace. April 28 is the National Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace and the first week of May is set aside as Occupational Safety & Health Week across North America.

Geneviève Fox is a community member in Prince George who is passionate about this issue and keen to raise awareness of health and safety in the workplace. She firmly believes that every worker should be coming home safe at the end of each day and has become involved in shining a light on this issue in Prince George.

I had the pleasure of asking Geneviève a few questions about workplace health and safety and the Steps for Life event that she is helping to organize in Prince George.

Steps for Life poster

“The only work is safe work; workplace tragedy is preventable.” Join Steps for Life in Prince George on May 1st at Masich Place Stadium.

The Steps for Life event in Prince George on May 1st marks the start of North American Occupational Safety & Health Week. Why will you be walking? Why is health and safety at work important to you?

In February 2015, I contacted Steps for Life to ask them when the walk would be coming to Prince George, a community that has been deeply affected by workplace tragedy. They told me it was not planned to come to Prince George and subsequently asked me if I would like to bring the walk to the community. I said yes, and our event will be happening May 1 at Masich Place Stadium. I think this walk is important because of the impact workplace tragedies have had here. It will also promote awareness of the services Threads of Life offers to those families and individuals in need.

What are some key messages for workplace safety that event participants would like residents of northern B.C. to know?

I cannot speak on behalf of the participants as I imagine each would have their own unique message to share. But if I were to generalize, I would say that for all of us involved there is a core, shared belief that every worker in Canada should be coming home safe at the end of each work day.

April 28 is the National Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace. What does the Day of Mourning mean to you?

The Day of Mourning is a vital day for all Canadians. We take time on that day to remember the unnecessary loss of life due to workplace tragedy. The Day of Mourning is not only a day for us to pay our respects to, and remember, the fallen, but it also serves as a sombre reminder that we must always stay vigilant and diligent with workplace health and safety, continuously improving our policies, procedures, systems, and practices.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this important topic?

The only work is safe work; workplace tragedy is preventable. Get involved with health and safety at your workplace and stay informed. Remember that you are an important part of the internal responsibility system.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)


Tales from the Man Cave: Fatigue & workplace safety

Man using chainsaw on a log.

How do you keep your workplace or work site safe? Fatigue can lead to injury so be sure to ask yourself what you can do to ensure that you, your employees, or your family members are safe at work.

At 39 years of age, John never thought that he would be among the disabled.

His Monday started off very well. He had the usual commute, half awake, sipping on his coffee mug, driving to work. It had been a late night again last night and, in fact, he had had quite a few late nights recently. The days appeared to be beginning to merge into one another. It seemed to John that he had been working 24/7 for quite a few weeks now.

The job was OK once he mastered it and he had been doing it for years. He was progressing well with the renovation jobs. Climbing ladders or going on roofs was easy for him as a tradesman and he always made sure he took the appropriate safety precautions. Nothing he couldn’t handle.

Today, he would find out, was different. Today, tired after several long days and experiencing fatigue, John would make a judgment error. He would get injured on the job. Life would change for John, suddenly and mercilessly. He would no longer be able to go out on Saturday mornings to kick the ball with his boys. He would no longer be able to continue with the job he had been doing for years. Life would change this Monday and it would take years to recover from it.

John, obviously a made up character, is actually more common than we would like to think. Labour Day, like the National Day of Mourning on April 28, provides us with an opportunity to think about how we can support safe workplaces and to remember lives lost or injured in the workplace. Northern B.C. has more than its fair share of workplace injuries and deaths due to the nature of its industry, but we have the power to change these statistics.

Like our character John, many of us are tired because of hard work and long hours that lead to fatigue. Fatigue is a serious workplace safety issue, however, and can even be a killer. It’s very important to balance hard work with enough rest and recreation. WorkSafe BC has more information about the dangers of fatigue in the workplace.

If you, your employees, or your family members are starting to feel like John in our story, ask yourself what you can change to make life a little more balanced and a little safer.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.