Does a Canadian Company Need to Invest in a Health and Safety Management System?

Canada is regarded as an “advanced safety country,” which implies that here workplace safety is as sacrosanct as a right. Thus, like other “advanced safety” countries, Canada too has in place a complex and extensive body of legislations that make it mandatory for companies to make their workplaces safe for their employees. Having a health and safety management system in place helps companies adhere to the rules of workplace safety. But would they do this already? Do people and companies have to be micromanaged? How many jobs have these regulations cost Canada?

Canada is certainly better off than countries such as Saudi Arabia where people engage in extreme and grinding construction work without any shoes!

What is a Health and Safety Management System?

According to an online informational resource published by the Government of Alberta, a health and safety management system is “a process to minimize the incidence of injury and illness at the workplace.” By documenting the objectives of the exercise, the performance goals, the means to achieve these, and criteria for measuring the performance, a health and safety management system standardizes the process that in turn, makes compliance easy and hassle-free. To elaborate, this system lays down the guidelines for, to name a few, hazard identification, evaluation, and control processes; determines the incident investigation procedures; and specifies emergency response actions.

Why Does a Company Need to Invest in a Health and Safety Management System?

But the legal obligation to adhere to federal legislations apart, companies are motivated to invest in maintaining the health and safety standards at their workplaces for other reasons too, some of them of the intangible kind.

A company feels compelled to invest in a health and safety management system because occupational safety is a critical determinant of a company’s sustainability that in turn, begets attention from the investor community.

An unsafe work environment can prove to be costly for both the company and its investors. For instance, a company has to shell out workers’ compensation damages, pay for expensive legal proceedings when negligence lawsuits are filed against it, and also furnish penalties to the government. But these are only the direct costs of not having a health and safety management system in place.

The indirect costs, though difficult to calculate, can nonetheless cripple the company. Apart from the loss of worker productivity and diminished employee morale that in turn affects overall productivity, an unsafe work environment tarnishes the goodwill of a company in the market. It thus has a hard time attracting and/or retaining talented workers, attracting investment, taking an upper hand during business negotiations, and bagging projects with clients. According to findings released by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Canadian economy incurs tens of billions of dollars worth of loss every year due to workplace injuries related to stress.

The statistics are frightening. According to St. John Ambulance, in Canada, one in every four accidents occurs at the workplace. A staggering 98 percent of these accidents cause an injury and 95 percent of these injuries render the victim unable to work. And as the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada has found, the incidence of occupational incidents are increasing every year and in 2010, there were more than 2.78 deaths every day from injuries and/or illnesses sustained at the workplace. Thus it is no longer a question of whether a Canadian company wants to invest in health and safety management system. Having a health and safety management system in place is the ONLY way a company can make its business premises safe for its workers.

This article was written by Benjamin Roussey, a safety enthusiast and Canadian native.

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