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Western Nova Scotia wins CSSE chapter of the year

By Amanda Silliker

It may be a small branch, but it’s a mighty one. With only 40 members, the Western Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) took home the Chapter of the Year award at the CSSE’s professional development conference in Montreal.

“I think it would pertain to our devotion and persistence to focus on the common goal to promote the message of health and safety and the importance that it’s a balance in the workplace with every aspect of the business — and we should never lose sight of that,” said Wanda Balsor, past chair of the chapter.

The chapter actively reaches out to the public to further their knowledge of OHS, said Wanda. In Western Nova Scotia, more than 30 per cent of employers are still very unaware of their responsibilities and regulatory requirements around occupational health and safety, she estimates.

“It could be fall protection: ‘I was unaware of the new regulation’; confined space: ‘I didn’t realize I needed training;’ It could be a scissor lift: ‘I didn’t realize I needed to be certified’; or I didn’t realize I needed to do a hazard identification on every job that I do,” said Balsor.

To help close the gap, the chapter hosts open workshops on topics such as chainsaw safety and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Chapter members volunteer to conduct educational talks for students at the Nova Scotia Community College in Kentville, N.S.

Last year, the chapter held and educational day open to all OHS professionals. The morning began with several sessions on a variety of OHS topics that culminated in a mock trial in the afternoon.

“It led up to the result of not following (the information in the morning sessions) and what could happen to an organization,” said Balsor.

The chapter brought in real lawyers and a judge to conduct the trial. It was very well received with 150 OHS professionals from all across the province in attendance. To make it even more of a special event, it was held in the theatre at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.

The dedication of the chapter volunteers leading up to this event was phenomenal, said Balsor. The committees in charge of the event volunteered in excess of 90 hours each, they met for 11 months every two weeks. The sub-committees met for over 45 hours each.

Each month, the chapter hosts education session for its members, ranging from hearing conservation and hazard identification to mental health and policy development.

The chapter also gives its members a chance to shine through hosting roundtable discussion where other members and guests are invited to attend, said Wanda.

“Members get the chance to display their expertise and promote what they specialize in so they can add value to other members.”

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