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Safety managers urged to maintain standards in tough economy

By Mari-Len De Guzman

CALGARY – The Canadian Society of Safety Engineers (CSSE) has urged safety professionals to maintain safety standards in the workplace despite the economic downturn that’s causing many companies to reduce cost and downsize.

At the opening ceremony of the CSSE’s annual Professional Development Conference, being held in this city this week, CSSE president Art Nordholm told attendees that it’s important to ensure the continuity of their safety systems because the economy will recover.

“It’s still very apparent that you still have to keep current because the global economy and the downsizing will turn around and in order to maintain your established standards, you do have to keep investing in the safety of your people in the workplace. Because they are the ones that are going to bring your community, your business, your workplace back into the world standards that help change the economies,” Nordholm said.

Nordholm made the call amid layoffs and downsizing experienced in many workplaces across Canada. Many safety professionals recently find themselves working with reduced or no resource at all. Some have even lost their jobs.

Nordholm’s advise to them: “Don’t give up.”

“Maintain your currency, you are a professional you are the best that Canada has to offer and Canada offers some of the best in the world. So take your talents and your education and your expertise and maintain your status and somebody will require your services so don’t give up, keep working, maintain your professionalism,” the CSSE president said.

The CSSE’s U.S. counterpart, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), echoed Nordholm’s statements.

At the opening ceremony, ASSE president Christopher Patton emphasized the importance of investing in health, safety and environment during hard economic times. Effective health and safety systems help in improving the efficiency, productivity and profitability of organizations, therefore maintaining these systems during an economic downturn is critical, he said.

Patton also urged safety leaders to do their part.

“In order for a safety manager to be successful today they must understand how they contribute to their organization and how they sell the value proposition to their employer,” he said. “This means understanding the business and the language that goes along with that. It means integrating safety into everyone’s roles and responsibilities so that it’s viewed as a value not a task.”

Close to 600 participants attended this year’s CSSE Professional Development Conference, including 68 exhibitors – the largest number of exhibitors in CSSE history, according to Nordholm.

Don Bell, founder and former executive vice-president at West Jet, was the keynote speaker. Bell discussed how the company has found great success by putting people first in everything it does. West Jest was, at one point, was named as one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Culture.

The CSSE Professional Development Conference runs from September 20 to 23, 2009.

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