Mar 20, 2013

Saving lives with social media

By Mari-Len De Guzman

The problem was my niece’s blood type is AB negative, a rare blood type, which only about one per cent of the world’s population has.

After calling dozens of blood banks and hospitals, and testing friends and family for a potential match, we were unsuccessful in securing the needed blood for my niece. And so our entire family did what any regular 21st century family would do: We went on Facebook.

Less than 24 hours later, we had a blood donor. My niece is now well on her way to full recovery.

It was an amazing showcase of unity, of people coming together for a great cause and achieving success.

What struck me as more impressive, however, is the swiftness in which success was achieved. Within minutes, my cousin — the mother of my sick niece — was able to reach all our relatives across the world to ask for help in finding a suitable donor. Within hours, thousands were sharing our appeal for help on Facebook. And in less than a day, we found that one person with that rare blood type who was willing to be a donor.

In the business world, we are now starting to grasp the potential power of social media to influence the way we do our jobs. The resources available to workers and managers to become more productive and increase their knowledge are limitless in the world of online networking and social sharing. The ability to influence and be influenced is literally in your hands — one mouse-click away.

In safety, where external knowledge sharing is essential for business — and a life or death necessity — the Internet can be a vital tool in a safety professional’s ever expanding toolbox. It’s a phenomenon I believe more safety professionals are now starting to embrace.

Take Canadian Occupational Safety magazine’s LinkedIn group as an example. Over the last three years, the group’s membership has grown to nearly 3,000 health and safety, environment, human resources and other relevant professionals. There are new discussions being posted and commented on everyday, on topics that are timely and relevant to these professionals.

The Internet, through various social media tools, has become a marketplace for knowledge, available and accessible to anyone who is willing to learn. Law enforcers and regulators have learned to use it against employers that don’t operate in compliance with OHS laws.

Of course, the Internet can never be a substitute for formal training and education, such as those that can be gained from learning institutions and professional development conferences. But, used wisely and responsibly, social media and the Internet can be a great source of real-life lessons and best practices.

Lots of conversations about OHS management, tips, questions are happening on the COS LinkedIn group. Join the conversation and share your inputs.