Paper or Practice…the 3 P’s in Occupational Health & Safety


What can go wrong? How bad can it be? How do I know I’m in control?

Miriam Webster defines “risk” as:

  • Being in a dangerous situation where something bad or harmful could happen resulting in the possibility of loss or injury
  • Someone or something that creates a hazard that may cause something bad or unpleasant to happen

Occupational Health & Safety is much more than contractual risk avoidance legislation written on a piece of paper and filed away on the top shelf … “just in case we need it”. At its core, OHS is cultural … an everyday, continuous improvement practice of CREATING, PROMOTING and MAINTAINING health and safety standards for an organization and its employees.

There are many areas where health and safety overlaps with core aspects of human resource management from workplace harassment and bullying to attendance management, disability claims management and return-to-work programs, workers’ compensation claims, health and safety considerations in job design, wellness initiatives and performance management.

With the imminent changes to Alberta Occupational Health & Safety legislation coming into effect in June 2018, it’s important for employers to ensure there has been transference of knowledge and practices to their employees. Alberta OHS has been designed to help prevent worker injuries and illnesses by providing measures and information for taking action.

As people practitioners, HR professionals must find ways to balance the best interests of employees with those of the business and, while it is not reasonable to expect HR to understand all the technical aspects of OHS, they can play an important role in administrating, communicating, facilitating and championing employee health and safety. The first step in building effective OHS practices is AWARENESS. Without awareness, both employers and employees will not be able to act effectively to ensure pro-active health and safety in the workplace. It is important to have clear messaging and continually improving best practices to make more people aware of their occupational health and safety rights and responsibilities. While HR may oversee OHS legislation and accompanying policies and procedures, HR must partner with senior management to ensure consistency in organizational practices and that every member of the organization – from the TOP DOWN – understands that OHS is EVERYONE’S responsibility.

Photo courtesy of: Africa Oil Corporation. HSE Management Systems


While most conscientious managers really don’t want to see their employees harmed at work, there are unfortunately still some who view OHS as a burden and “just another piece of legislation” that will cost the business time, money and resources. We have to face it … in tough economic times, and when there is so much new legislation impacting business, OHS is the last thing most organizations want to hear about. Given the prevalence that management’s focus is on other more pressing operational matters, OHS often gets “pushed down the chain” and becomes “just another HR issue”.

Why is health and safety good for business?

  • Injuries and ill-health caused by poor working conditions can impose significant and often unrecognised financial and legal costs on business
  • A happy and healthy employee is a more productive employee
  • Health and safety compliance can have an extensive and highly positive impact on your organization

Dedicated attention to health and safety is not just about being socially responsible. It also makes good business sense and should be regarded as just as important as the achievement of any other key business objective. Defining what health and safety looks like for your business in 2018 can be quite challenging. On the surface, there seems to be a lot of regulations; however, the underlying principles are quite straight forward. Essentially organizations have to ensure the ABSENCE OF RISK to the overall health and safety of employees and workplace visitors insofar as it is reasonably practical. The main pillars in developing a solid and sustainable OHS program are:

  • Is there a system in place to manage OHS?
    • There must be a Policy, designated People and clear Procedures – the organization must be able to demonstrate­ how it plans, organizes, controls, monitors, audits, reviews and continual improves preventative measures. Remember, paperwork supports a process but isn’t the process.
  • Have hazards – things that could cause harm – been identified?
    • Risk assessment is the key to working out what needs to be. Important note – although it is required by law, risk assessments are only of any really use if they can be used as a working tool by proving to the organization and its employees that the main things in the organization which could cause harm have been identified, and that everything has been done to prevent that harm from happening.
  • Have the risks – the probability that significant harm will occur – been assessed?
    • It is critical for an organization to ensure that its risk control measures are at a minimum adequate, and that they are used, maintained and that they continue to work. Even more important is to inform, train and supervise employees.

Develop an outstanding OHS CULTURE in the organization … how ARE you managing your business? Occupational Health and Safety affects all industries. If you need help drafting policies and procedures that improves your OHS culture and practices, contact us! Salopek & Associates has help many companies draft OHS programs to ensure they are in compliance and providing a safe and healthy culture for your team.


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