WorkSafeBC president David Anderson was the first to sign B.C.’s Health & Safety Leadership Charter at the Leading Performance Conference on October 27 in Vancouver. In total, 23 CEOs and senior executives from around B.C. signed on to this landmark charter that was introduced at a day-long conference hosted by the FIOSA-MIOSA Safety Alliance. Their goal is 150 signatories by 2015.
“We’re encouraging leaders to add their signatures, demonstrating a commitment to providing a prevention-based workplace culture,” said Lisa McGuire, Safety Alliance CEO. “The charter is a public declaration to our employees, customers and the communities we serve that we value health and safety.”
The Alliance represents B.C.’s food and manufacturing industries — and, along with their 2,000 members — they’ve got a big job ahead. According to WorkSafeBC statistics from 2008, the injury rate among B.C. manufacturers was 4.6 — nearly double the province-wide injury rate of 2.37. The food processing sub-sector has an even higher rate of injury at 7.1 — which means that for every person who works full-time in a one-year period, 7.1 out of 100 have suffered some type of injury.
In 2009, B.C.’s manufacturing sector paid $121 million in claims and the actual cost to employers is estimated at $605 million. The most common cause of injury was lifting, followed by repetitive movement, injuries from sharp edges, and slips, according to a 2010 Safety Alliance survey.
“Simply put, there are too many individuals whose lives, well-being, personal finances, and health are being adversely affected by the poor health and safety record of our industry,” McGuire said. “Our industry is taking action — making employee health and safety a priority for the well-being of our people and the sustainability of our businesses."
Sustainability, profitability and corporate performance were key topics at the day-long Leading Performance Conference. Speakers and attendees from WorkSafeBC, Rio Tinto Alcan, Pacific Environmental Consulting, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, and others talked about how health and safety affects people’s lives and employers’ business. CBC’s Kathryn Gretsinger moderated panel discussions that led to more conversations during networking breaks.
Senior managers from large and small firms talked about earning their Certificates of Recognition (COR) from the Alliance — a “certifying partner” contracted by WorkSafeBC to help employers develop and implement sustainable health and safety and return-to-work programs that meet and exceed legal requirements.
Paul Boileau, director of operations at Soprema Inc. in Chilliwack B.C., was the first general manufacturer to earn COR from the Safety Alliance. Previously, the Alliance focused on the food processing industry and was known as the B.C. Food Processors Health and Safety Council. But in 2010, the organization expanded its membership to include 700 employers in the general manufacturing industry and changed its brand to the FIOSA-MIOSA Safety Alliance.
“Forward-thinking companies will recognize that the time has come to apply the success found in other areas of modern enterprise to the culture of health and safety programs,” Boileau said. “In the same way executives use financial models, sales analysis, efficiency and throughput data to influence strategic decision-making, the prevention-based philosophy supported by the Health & Safety Leadership Charter capitalizes on trend analysis, benchmarking, employee reintegration and prevention programs to bring significant savings of resources and human suffering to the workplace.”
Keynote speaker Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks Coffee, talked about the importance of people over profits. During his time at Starbucks, Behar participated in the growth of the company from only 28 stores to more than 15,000 on five continents. He shares his “people first” philosophy in his book, It’s Not About the Coffee, and as a guest speaker around the world.
“I want to change the world,” Behar told
in a phone interview before the conference. “I’ve seen what works and I’ve seen what doesn’t work. What does work is when you focus on people: both the people you serve — who we call customers — but most of all the people doing the serving, who we call our employees. When you focus your energies on serving others, it changes how we solve all our problems. It changes our communities, our families, our companies, and organizations of all kinds — and I just want to see that happen.”
Behar praised the work of conference organizers — including the efforts of Maureen Shaw, former president and CEO of the Industrial Accident Prevention Association, who acted as project manager for the conference.
“I applaud the people who started this conference and are bringing together all these different organizations to commit to workplace safety. I think we need to do more of that,” Behar said. “Everything companies do is about people, and the companies that understand that will attract and keep the best people. Safety is a key part of that.”
The Health and Safety Leadership Charter can be viewed at the Safety Alliance website at
Susan Main is a blogger based in British Columbia. Her blog, Speaking of Safety, focuses on stories of people behind the scenes of workplace health and safety.