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Terror threat goes to work

By Mari-Len De Guzman
| www.cos-mag.com

The safety of your workers is no longer just about reducing the risks of fall hazards, chemical exposures or dangerous machinery; today, it’s also about keeping them safe from terrorists.

This was the topic of a presentation by Dan Farr, who spent 32 years ofhis career with the Halton Regional Police Service working inintelligence.

The safety of your workers is no longer just about reducing therisks of fall hazards,

chemical exposures

or

dangerous machinery

;today, it’s also about keeping them safe from terrorists.

This was the topic of a presentation by Dan Farr, who spent 32 years of his career with the Halton Regional Police Service working in intelligence.

Speaking to a room-full of safety managers at the Health and Safety Canada event last April, Farr urged his audience to rethink how they approach health and safety in the workplace, given the current threat environment.

“Until recently, acts of terrorism were not thought of as a health and safety issue. However, we’re especially vulnerable when we’re working and commuting to and from work,” says Farr, who has vast experience in the criminal intelligence field and now a vice-president for London, Ont.-based security firm Corporate Investigation Services.

Farr cited the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, which he says claimed the lives of thousands of people who were at their workplace when the tragedy occurred. “Terrorism does impact the workplace.”

Another example, he says, was the October 2001 Anthrax attacks, where many of the victims were postal workers. The London subway system bombing in March 2004 killed 56 people and injured 700, many were on their way to their workplace when the attack happened, he says.

In previous statements, Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has said they will target key sectors of the economy, Farr says. “They recognize that in Canada, our economy is what counts, and they will target workplaces.”

At the session, Farr continued to provide examples of recent terror-related incidents that support his argument that Canadian workplaces are now a target for terrorist attacks.

“Terrorism is a workplace hazard albeit a non-traditional one,” Farr says. He stressed, however, that depending on the nature of an organization’s business, some companies might be more at risk than others.

For example, Canadian organizations that are a subsidiaries of American firms, supply military equipment, situated in densely populated areas, part of a transportation system, have high volume of pedestrian traffic, or have a high profile are considered “lightning rods” for terrorist activity, Farr explains. Companies that use, transport, handle or store hazardous materials are also believed to be probable targets, he adds.

If they haven’t done so in the past, safety teams must now work more closely with the security management personnel, Farr says.

“What we have to do is help build a security conscious organization,” he says. “Building a security conscious organization is, I believe, a role of the health and safety staff and the security organization, collectively.”

One of the attendees at Farr’s presentation was the personnel security adviser for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Mandy Rose. At her organization, located in Sarnia, Ont., safety and security fall under one department, and the two are constantly working together, she says.

She agrees that there needs to be a lot more awareness among the general public about the current risks. “A lot of the people are very complacent and don’t necessarily consider our location,” Rose says, referring to Sarnia, which is host to a well-developed petroleum industry.

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