Supporting a health and safety culture in Ontario
Many of the submissions the Panel received support the view that improved workplace health and safety requires strong societal support. Beliefs, attitudes and behaviours about the value and protection of human life apply equally to family, community, school and the workplace. The perceptions and values of managers and workers can result in actions that promote health and reduce injuries. A culture of safety is complex and influenced in many ways throughout society.
Effective leadership clearly contributes to the positive health of an organization. Throughout the consultations, participants stressed the importance of the attitudes and behaviours of owners, employers, managers and supervisors in defining the safety culture of a company. Preparing the next generation to be good leaders is an important responsibility. The Chair of the Panel met with a number of individuals extensively involved in influencing the future generation of citizens, workers and workplace leaders. The Panel is particularly appreciative of this work and of the specific suggestions made by Paul Kells, Rob Ellis and Shirley Hickman regarding community awareness of injury prevention, health and safety education in schools and training for employers, workers and supervisors. Entities such as Safe Communities Canada, My Safe Work / Our Youth At Work and Threads of Life are non-government organizations working to create awareness and sustainable change in society.
The role of government organizations is also a crucial one, particularly in terms of education. The continuum of education and training begins in the education system, where a foundation of knowledge is provided, and flows into the workplace, where training and learning continue. Cultivating positive community norms around health and safety — whether at home, in the community or in the workplace — establishes a safety culture in Ontario.
Another key role of government in society lies in crafting and enforcing legislation. Enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety Act is a vital element of a comprehensive approach to setting and supporting acceptable societal behaviour and norms.
As Ontario continues to experience significant population growth from immigration, many new immigrants and new workers have not had the benefit of emerging from the Ontario education system. As a result, we need to ensure that information is available at literacy levels and in languages that can be understood by our emerging workforce. Community leaders and community linkages through social, religious and private organizations become even more important. Through these channels, health and safety values and information can be shared with new immigrants, increasing their knowledge and employability.
A number of recommendations described later in the report are framed in the context of fostering and supporting a culture of health and safety in Ontario at the societal and workplace levels. This can be achieved in the school systems; through community organizations; by government policies, practices and programs; and by reinforcing health and safety in workplaces through legislation and enforcement. In this way, the Ministry of Labour and workplace health and safety organizations are not alone in contributing to the creation of safer and healthier workplaces.