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Landscape of safety in B.C. changed dramatically over past 20 years

By Amanda Silliker

Employers, labour and health and safety professionals in British Columbia should be proud of their accomplishments in health and safety that have taken place over the past 20 years, delegates heard at the Western Conference on Safety.

Twenty years ago, the injury rate in British Columbia was close to the double digits, compared to today when it is at an historic low of 2.28, said Al Johnson, vice-president of prevention services at WorkSafeBC, speaking at the conference in Vancouver on April 20, which is celebrating its 20th year.

“It’s different today in our workplaces and we can be proud of those differences because workplaces are safer,” he said. ‘Workers are going home at the end of the day free of injury and disease. Fewer workers are being seriously injured in their B.C. workplaces.”

Although the injury rate has reduced, workplace incidents and deaths still occur. Johnson reminded the 750 delegates that one injury or one death is one too many — and there is still more work to be done.

“We must continue to be vigilant to address those risks out there that are known and unknown, those risks that are understood and less well understood, those risks that are emerging today and we don’t even really know what they are all about,” he said.

Johnson also stressed the importance of remaining nimble to address those risks when confronted with them, and to being skillful to apply the knowledge and information safety professionals have on hand to make a difference.

Jim Hopkins, president of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE), also spoke at the conference and encouraged health and safety professionals to never stop learning, so they can be well prepared to manage the different health and safety issues that may arise.

“We need to be constantly looking for new and better ways to do things. Take advantage of the technological changes that are happening as well as draw on the expertise of those that are having success,” he said. “Professional development may be important in most professions, but I think it is an absolute necessity in the safety profession."

Photo: Al Johnson speaking at the Western Conference on Safety, courtesy WorkSafeBC

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