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Funny or die: Using humour to create safe, healthy workplace

By Mari-Len De Guzman
Michael Kerr, keynote speaker at the Alberta Health and Safety Conference

The Alberta Health and Safety Conference kicks off this week at the BMO Centre in Calgary with an opening keynote about creating inspiring workplaces through humour. Award-winning Canadian speaker Michael Kerr tells safety professionals to lighten up a little — and there's good reason for that.{jcomments off}

Calgary — They say laughter is the best medicine; it can also be the best cure to an uninspired workforce.

At the opening session of the Alberta Health and Safety Conference, keynote speaker Michael Kerr energized attendees with humour demonstrating how organizations can “tap into their humour resources” to create a workplace where everyone wants to work.

“It’s about learning to lighten up about things we can’t control over,” said Kerr, an award-winning speaker and author.

He said laughing should be part of any workplace wellness program, citing various studies that back up the theory that laughter does wonders to a person’s physical and mental health.

For example, just by laughing, a person increases oxygen intake, which is good for the human body. Laughter is also proven to be a good stress-reliever.

Humour is believed to be an effective communication tool as people tend to retain more information and are five time more likely to agree or comply when messages are delivered with a touch of humour, said Kerr.

“The great news about laughter is it’s totally free,” he said, adding it is also effective in alleviating tense situations in the workplace.

He challenged conference attendees to turn their organizations into inspiring workplaces through humour.

“Just because you’re trying to create a safe and healthy workplace doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun.” In fact, Kerr said, humour can help in creating safer and healthier workplaces.

A “recovering government manager,” Kerr is the principal at the Humour at Work Institute.

Alberta’s Workers’ Compensation Board also delivered a welcome message to conference attendees. It’s vice-president for customer service and risk management, Dieter Brunsch, said that while Alberta has made great strides in reducing workplace injuries and illnesses “there is always room for improvement.”

“That’s why this conference is so valuable to us… it helps you prepare for the challenges that are yet to come,” Brunsch told attendees.

Also at the opening session was Andrew Sharman, assistant deputy minister at Alberta Human Services, delivering a message from recently appointed Minister of Human Services Dave Hancock. Hancock took over the post from Thomas Lukaszuck on October 12, 2011. Lukaszuck was the minister who initiated a website that posted employers’ health and safety records in Alberta.

In his video message to attendees, Hancock vowed to continue the efforts to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses in the province, including the employer records’ website.

The conference was hosted by the Health and Safety Conference Society of Alberta. It was held at the BMO Centre at Calgary's famous Stampede Park, with some 800 delegates in attendance, including more than 100 exhibitors.

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