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Mentorship important for career development

‘Find someone that you can make a connection with and that you find very easy to learn from,’ says Women in Safety speaker

When Anne Guinard was first starting out as a young safety professional at Imperial Oil in Calgary, she found an excellent mentor in Dave Fennell, who was the senior safety advisor at the company.

“He was extremely knowledgeable in the profession, but he was also very knowledgeable about how to work within our field in a major company and how to navigate that,” Guinard explained, who is now the upstream SSHE functional planner and analytics advisor for ExxonMobil.

Both Guinard and Fennell are speaking about the value of mentorship opportunities at Canadian Occupational Safety’s upcoming Women in Safety event in Calgary on March 5.

Having a good mentor is something that Guinard believes is extremely important for young professionals — especially women.

“In the safety profession, it’s fairly male-dominated workforces, whether it be in the professional stream or not, and that can be somewhat intimidating as females starting a new career, entering that workforce and understanding how they fit in,” she said.

Fennell introduced Guinard to the higher-ups and influential colleagues as well as brought her into discussions and meetings when there might be a learning opportunity. He also had an open-door policy, which Guinard tries to model now that she is a mentor herself.

“Everybody is really busy in their day-to-day work, but if you committed in some way to a person, take the time — even if it’s not convenient for you — instead of going ‘Ugh, not right now,’” she said. “It will be more meaningful to that individual because they will recognize the effort.”

Guinard cautions against getting into a mentorship program unless you are “doing it for the right reasons.” If the mentor is participating in the program to tout it on a resume, then they should not bother volunteering their services because they likely won’t do the program any justice.

“It really is about making that person as successful as they can be, regardless of whether it reflects well on you or not,” she said.

In order for the partnership to truly be successful, the mentee has to play their part as well. For example, they should know the expectations upfront if they are brought into a high-profile meeting. Would it be appropriate for them to ask questions during the meeting or jot them down for a one-on-one session with the mentor later? They also need to understand that mentorship is a time commitment and respect the boundaries of their mentor. Not everyone will be comfortable being at the beck and call of the mentee and might prefer set meeting times instead.

It can also be helpful to understand how a mentor can and cannot assist your career development.

“Don’t expect your mentor to help you in all aspects of your career. You may need to leverage different people in a different way,” Guinard said. “It helps you find the right balance of who you can learn from and how you can best learn from them — and give you a broader exposure.”

If a company doesn’t have a formal mentorship program, then an individual can seek out a mentor themselves. They can start by looking for someone who would want to be a mentor and who matches their personal learning style.

“Find someone that you can make a connection with and that you find very easy to learn from and approach them and ask them whether or not you can use them in that capacity,” Guinard suggested.

Some places to find a mentor include within your own organization (start by asking your direct supervisor for recommendations), professional associations, and simply reaching out to individuals on LinkedIn.

Learn more about mentorship and the positive impact it can have on your career at the Women in Safety Event in Calgary on March 5.

Authentic leadership style needed for advancement

Women need to figure out their ‘superpowers,’ says Women in Safety speaker


To help female safety professionals climb the ranks into leadership positions, Johanna Pagonis suggests they focus on developing a personal and authentic leadership style.

“An authentic leadership style is like finding that right pair of jeans — one that fits well and suits you and your idea, your philosophy of leadership, and not necessarily subscribing to someone else’s,” said Pagonis, owner of Sinogap Solutions Leadership Consulting in Sherwood Park, Alta.

Pagonis says the first step in becoming a successful leader is determining why you want to lead in the first place.

“If you do not know why you want to be a formal leader, then there’s no point in even pursuing it — figure that out first,” she said. “What drives people to excellence is igniting their passion through their own purpose.”

Pagonis will be speaking about developing a personal leadership style at Canadian Occupational Safety’s upcoming Women in Safety event in Calgary on March 5.

Once the “why” is determined, women should consider the “what” and identify their superpowers.

“It’s a really important word that we as women have to ask ourselves… You have to understand and own what your superpowers are. What are you good at? And don’t be afraid to explore that,” Pagonis said.

She recommends women reach out to their friends and colleagues to seek feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. This can help women be proud of their accomplishment and also know where there is opportunity for growth.

But the organization has a role to pay as well — it does not rest solely on the individual. The reality in many male-dominated industries is that women often do not have access to mentors, informal networks and influential colleagues, which can create barriers to upward mobility, Pagonis said.

“It’s not uncommon for people to be tapped on the shoulder and told, ‘Hey, you take this position.’ And the people who usually get tapped on the shoulder are the ones with access to those informal networks. And if it’s a male-dominated industry, more likely the people who are getting tapped on the shoulder are men versus women,” she said.

Organizations need to review their practices around promotions and selecting individuals for advancement opportunities.

“If they can actually take the time to think about that, it can maybe create a powerful ‘aha moment’ that can become the catalyst for progress and innovation that can create more opportunities for women in male-dominated industries,” Pagonis said.

Women should not be passive in this process — they need to make sure they are connecting with people that can support them and advocate for them.

“Being able to develop trusting bonds with others is critical. In all the research I’ve done in how people learn and grow in leadership roles, every single leader I interviewed all had access to mentors,” Pagonis said.

If a female professional comes to the realization that her company does not have equitable practices in place for determining promotions, she will need to take matters into her own hands. First, she should consider if she can broaden her sphere of influence and try to change some of those practices. If this is unsuccessful, it might be time to look for other opportunities.

“Transforming practising culture and being willing to take a stand to challenge the system is critical and it’s important and it means rallying other like-minded people,” said Pagonis. “But if you feel like you don’t have the opportunity to do that, then you have to be able to say, ‘You know what? Maybe it’s time for me to move on.’ And that’s the reality we have to deal with as women.”

Learn more about developing a personal leadership style and becoming an effective leader at the Women in Safety event in Calgary on March 5.

Layered approach required for workplace mental health

Leaders must receive additional training due to their organizational influence, says Women in Safety speaker

Occupational health and safety professionals need to get involved in the mental health of their workforce — it can’t just be left to human resources.

“One of the most important things that we can do in an organization to help promote good mental health and to get people access to resources when they need it is when the messaging is coming from various sources within the organization,” said Claudia Canales, a workplace mental health consultant in Calgary. “The more we can do that in a wholesome way, the bigger the impact will be on the cultural shift that is really required in order to reduce the stigma that exists towards mental health and to make it a normal point of conversation.”

Everyone in the organization benefits from having a workforce with strong mental health as it improves employee performance, increases productivity and reduces the number of disability claims and sick days, she adds.

Canales will be speaking about mental well-being in the workplace at Canadian Occupational Safety’s upcoming Women in Safety event in Calgary on March 5.

When it comes to improving the mental health of its workforce, organizations need to take a layered approach, Canales said. At the individual level, all employees need training on mental health. One excellent resource that Canales recommends is The Working Mind by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which helps individuals determine where they fall on the mental health continuum and offers strategies that can be applied at each point.

Anyone in a leadership role requires additional training above and beyond what is offered to employees, due to the significant impact they have within the organization, Canales said.

“They are responsible for creating the norms, the values, what is considered good work, what do we consider to be work-life balance,” she said. “They can largely influence the environment to be conducive to good mental health, free of psychological hazards.”

Leaders should be role models for good mental health, such as taking breaks, using resiliency skills to get through busy times and taking care of their own mental well-being. They also need to create a trusting environment where there is respect and civility for one another.

The second layer occurs at the system level, where an organization needs to take a hard look at its policies, practices and strategies towards promoting good mental health and preventing mental illness.

“Does it uphold and promote good mental health? [What about] our sick days? Benefits? Policies? Disability management? The existence of occupational health and safety? All those things are required to truly create an environment where mental health can be improved and upheld,” Canales said.

Safety professionals can’t just focus on the mental health of the workforce, they need to turn the lens on themselves too, since their work can be demanding, stressful and traumatic. In the wake of a serious workplace injury or fatality, it’s important for safety professionals to realize there is “no normal reaction to an abnormal event,” said Canales.

“In the moment, it really would be to reflect on the fact that, ‘I have been exposed to a highly distressing situation. There is no normal reaction to this. How I react is how I react, and I am going to experience a range of emotions,” she said.

If an individual has not regained their previous level of functioning within three to five days after a traumatic event, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.


Learn more about mental health in the workplace at the Women in Safety event in Calgary on March 5.

Women face many gender-specific OHS risks

Experiencing more workplace violence, musculoskeletal disorders, says Women in Safety speaker

While women and men face many of the same occupational health and safety risks on the job, there are some significant differences that safety professionals need to take into account. For example, certain chemicals are known to affect a woman’s reproductive health and women face a higher likelihood of being victims of workplace harassment.

A panel discussion titled Risk and Trends in the Health and Safety of Women at Work is being held at Women in Safety in Calgary on March 5 to dive deeper into these differences.

Reproductive health
Numerous studies are available that describe how exposure to certain chemicals can have on a negative effect on women’s reproductive organs. For example, working with cytotoxic drugs has been linked to infertility issues, miscarriages, stillbirths and birth defects.

If a worker is pregnant, there are a slew of other considerations and it might be unsafe for her to continue in her regular job. But this can be a challenge for both the employee, who often wishes to continue working until the baby comes, and the employer who needs to find proper accommodation, said Dave Rebbitt, president of Rarebit Consulting in Calgary and one of the speakers on the panel.

“If you’re a woman and you’re working in the Pickering [Ontario] nuclear power plant, what do we do there?” he asks. “The nuclear industry has this great mantra ‘As low as reasonably achievable.’ Well, that might be off the property.”

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
According to Rebbitt, women are more likely to be affected by MSDs than men, including repetitive strain injuries, back injuries and carpal tunnel. This is because women are more likely to be found working in an office environment where equipment is designed to fit 80 per cent of the population, but in reality, that’s 80 per cent of men, Rebbitt said.

“Most of the equipment we have is designed to accommodate men and there’s a lot of overlap there, but for women that have a small stature, it’s really hard to find the right kind of equipment that’s going to fit them,” he said.

Workplace violence
Women tend to find themselves in roles that are more at risk of workplace violence, such as health-care and front-line customer service. Unfortunately, gender bias tends to seep into these situations as well, such as a female bylaw officer not being given the same amount of respect as her male counterparts, Rebbitt said.

“That really exposes them to workplace violence in terms of dealing with members of the public; people who may be very unhappy,” he said.

Workplace harassment
Studies have also shown that women experience more workplace harassment than men. A recent Statistics Canada study noted that one in five women report suffering from harassment on the job in the past year.

Rebbitt notes that women are generally more collegial in the workplace and less likely to speak up.

“If they are good at their job, they can become a target for passive aggressive behaviour… It’s like the politics of exclusion,” he said.

To better protect the health and safety of their female employees, employers need to treat the “health” related issues that fall under occupational health and safety as seriously as they treat the more traditional “safety” issues.

“These are legitimate health and safety hazards; legitimate risks that need to be addressed,” Rebbitt said.

He recommends female employees join the joint health and safety committee at their company and help steer the conversation toward health-related concerns.

“We have to look more at wellness and the psychosocial side of safety,” Rebbitt said. “You can link the health and safety together but try and put a capital H on that health.”

Women must ‘claim their achievements’ at work

Particularly important for women in male-dominated industries, says Women in Safety speaker

No matter what industry they find themselves in, women face many barriers when trying to advance their careers. Fortunately, they can control or influence almost all of them, according to Paula Campkin, vice-president and chief safety officer for Energy Safety Canada in Calgary and chairperson of the Women in Occupational Health & Safety Society (WOHSS). Campkin will be participating in a panel discussion titled Overcoming Common Barriers: Climbing the Corporate Ladder at Canadian Occupational Safety’s upcoming Women in Safety event in Calgary on March 5.

For one, women are often reluctant to claim their achievements and advocate for themselves in the workplace.

“There’s a very fine line between saying, ‘Oh, no, it was the team,’ even if it was you, to boasting. But there is somewhere in the middle,” Campkin says. “Don’t be scared to let your light shine.”

Campkin says she has been guilty of falling into the perfection trap — something many women struggle with. For example, if they get into a new industry, they may feel the need to learn absolutely everything about the industry first, which can hold them back.

“Women are more likely to try and be absolutely perfect. (They are) overvaluing technical expertise,” she says. “But there’s people there that have that. What you have been brought in to do is lead a team… The same skills that have helped you be successful won’t necessarily help you advance to the next level.”

Rather than being a technical expert on everything, Campkin recommends women learn how to work their relationships, network and have conversations, so they can advance their leadership skills.

A lack of access to mentors and sponsors also makes it difficult for women to climb the corporate ladder. Men are still the ones predominantly in senior positions, and men are more likely to mentor and sponsor other men.

“Like often attracts like. A man is more likely to sponsor someone that reminds him of himself at a younger age. It could be completely unbiased, but it does happen,” says Campkin. “There is also potentially a reluctance of men wanting to mentor a woman because there’s fear of the perception of a close professional relationship with a woman.”

To combat this, Campkin recommends women speak up and ask for a mentor. While their boss might not be able to mentor them, they might have someone in mind who can.

Women don’t always have the same networking opportunities, as they may be not even invited to the golf course or a sporting event with senior leaders. They need to seek out networking opportunities and attend as many as possible. (WOHSS regularly hosts networking events for its members.)

Women may also find themselves being excluded on the job — especially in male-dominated industries — and having fewer opportunities for face time with senior management. Campkin has personal experience with this, having worked in construction, utilities and oil and gas throughout her career.

“Often you are the only woman there and there might be times when you’re in a meeting with your executive team and they’re talking about things that they have more information on and you realize, ‘Wait, how come I haven’t been brought up to speed on this?’”

When situations like this arose, Campkin would speak to her boss and explain what she was observing.

“You have to do it in a way where you’re not coming across as whining or emotional but bringing people’s attention to that sort of thing.”

Unfortunately, a major barrier to women’s advancement is hard to control as it is largely unconscious: gender bias. A man might be perceived as being a good boss, while women are seen as bossy. A man might be persuasive, where a woman would be pushy. A man who spends a lot of time at work is dedicated, but a woman is a bad mom.

Bringing awareness to this issue can go a long way.

“If you’re the person it’s happening to or if you’re witnessing it, you say something. It will slowly change the culture,” says Campkin.

Another strategy is to speak to someone else in the organization, preferably a man with influence.

“You can explain where you’re coming from and maybe that person can advocate for you because if it happens and this person is in the room, he can say something,” says Campkin. “And often that will be taken a little bit more seriously rather than, ‘Oh, the woman is over-reacting or is emotional.’”

Women in the safety profession likely have personal experience with this issue and can point to many examples of gender bias, such as personal protective equipment made only to fit men. Unlike women in health care or other predominantly female sectors, safety professionals often find themselves working in male-dominated industries where the barriers to advancement are even greater.

Is your organization actively caring?

All levels must go to great lengths to ensure the well-being, safety of others

Do you care about safety? How could you possibly answer anything but “Of course I do!”? The fact that you are reading an article in COS is a good indication that you care enough to continue to learn more about safety. Some of you may even be in roles where you are trying to get others to care about safety as much as you do. That is a good start, but to have a strong safety culture, we must go beyond just having individuals who care and move toward a culture of caring through all levels in our organization. A strong safety culture will also need a level of caring beyond a simple, passive concern and more toward actively demonstrating care for others.

Scott Geller, world-renowned health and safety researcher, began using the phrase “actively caring” in 1991 to describe this culture in organizations, and to demonstrate that effective behavioural approaches to safety must be built on this foundation. Caring about safety was a good start but “actively caring” meant going above and beyond what is required or mandated and going to great lengths to ensure the well-being and safety of others in the workplace. It means workers are considerate for the safety of their peers and will step up to identify hazards and substandard conditions that could cause harm to them. It also means workers will have the courage to approach their peers and intervene if they see them putting themselves in danger because of an at-risk behaviour.

Actively caring gets its start from individuals who are compassionate, considerate and kind. These are inherent traits in some individuals, but others may need help in developing these attributes. Geller identified the characteristics of work groups that had a penchant for caring. He found that they believed they could make a difference on safety, they felt they had a degree of control over their actions and they worked cohesively. These attributes can be taught, but we need to look for ways of developing these attributes in our work groups using practical and simple approaches. Yes, we could send everyone away on training and to workshops to develop these traits, but the reality is we may have to grow this culture within the workplace.

Actively caring can start with continually looking for hazards and at-risk conditions. Encourage the use of hazard identification tools and demonstrate how each hazard that has been corrected may have prevented an incident. The pre-job planning processes, such as a job safety analysis (JSA) and field level hazard assessment (FLHA), contribute to the control and cohesive aspects of a caring culture. Behaviour observations, last minute risk assessments (LMRA) and approaching others and intervening are excellent ways of making a difference on safety and building those caring traits.

Actively caring is not just a front-line worker responsibility. Management must also demonstrate they care for the well-being of their workers. Management can’t get people to care about their work and about each other until they show that they care about them. In the absence of continuous contact with workers, management will need an additional set of tactics to demonstrate that they care. According to Aubrey Daniels, often referred to as the father of performance management, the “A” words can be used as the management touchstone in an actively caring workplace:

    • Actively listening


    • Appreciation


    • Acknowledge safety accomplishments


    • Asking questions about the work


    • Attending to safety issues.


Caring senior managers will be responsive to the safety needs in the workplace, such as ensuring the workers have access to the best personal protective equipment. They ask about the well-being of an injured worker and ensure the worker gets the best treatment and care. They say “Thank you” when workers put extra effort into making the workplace safer and they acknowledge the workers who have been actively caring for their peers. They reinforce the importance of workers looking out for each other in the workplace, encouraging and empowering people to intervene on behalf of others when faced with a potential at-risk situation. They provide training to their people on how to be more effective at intervention and encourage workers to be receptive and say “Thanks” when someone has intervened on them.

You can’t buy “actively caring” off a shelf. It cannot be purchased like a mask that is worn to portray an outward image. It must be sincere and heartfelt, and must come from individuals in the organization at all levels. It is front-line workers looking out for each other and intervening when they see others putting themselves at risk. It is supervisors encouraging everyone to approach others and intervene if they see something unsafe and making sure the workers have the resources needed to work safely. It is the actions of senior management visibly and actively caring about the people in their organization and fostering a culture that encourages the compassion and courage to actively care about others.

Median ROI for mental health programs can add up to $2.18 for every dollar spent: report

‘There’s both an economic and moral imperative for employers to take action’

Canadian companies that invest in mental health programs can see a median yearly return on investment (ROI) of $2.18 for every dollar spent, according to a new report.

In looking at three years’ worth of historical data from seven organizations, Deloitte Canada found programs are more likely to deliver greater returns as they mature, rather than yielding immediate financial benefits.

“There’s both an economic and moral imperative for Canadian employers to take action, recognizing that the cost to the Canadian economy of poor mental health in our workplaces is estimated to be $50 billion annually,” says Anthony Viel, CEO of Deloitte Canada.

“The findings from this report provide a business case that is impossible to ignore. Organizations committed to delivering and measuring impactful employee wellness programs are creating healthier workplaces and seeing investments in their people’s mental health pay off.”

Spending on mental health among the study’s participants has increased over the last three years. Engagement campaigns and workplace events have gone up 438 per cent, found Deloitte, while training for employees has gone up 182 per cent.

Also on the rise is spending on the implementation of Canada’s National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (by 35 per cent) and psychological care benefits (up 30 per cent).

On average, mental health issues account for 30 to 40 per cent of short-term disability (STD) claims and 30 per cent of long-term disability (LTD) claims in Canada, with the prevalence of mental health claims climbing by 0.5 to one per cent every year, says Deloitte.

Among the study’s participants, 22 of 1,000 STD claims in 2018 were for mental health, while 10 of every 1,000 LTD claims were related to mental health.

Working more than 40 hours a week increases risk of miscarriage: Study

Pregnant women who work night shifts also face greater risk of complications

Pregnant women who work more than 40 hours per week or who work the night shift face an increased risk for preterm delivery and miscarriage, according to a recent University of Alberta study. Researchers reviewed 62 independent studies from 33 countries and found that longer work hours — more than 40 hours per week — was associated with a 21 per cent higher chance of preterm delivery and a 38 per cent higher chance of miscarriage.

Pregnant women working a fixed night shift had 21 per cent higher odds of preterm delivery and 23 per cent higher odds of having a miscarriage than pregnant women working a fixed day shift, the study found.

“Our body’s daily cycle is greatly influenced by ambient light in that darkness signals sleep and light signals that it’s time to wake up,” said the study’s senior researcher, Margie Davenport. “During night shift work, the day is flipped and, over time, this is thought to trigger hormonal adaptations that may influence how the baby grows and the timing of delivery.”

Working rotating shifts in comparison to a fixed day shift was associated with a 13 per cent increase in the odds of preterm delivery, a 75 per cent increase in the rate of pre-eclampsia and a 19 per cent increase in the likelihood of gestational diabetes.

While an association can be made between long working hours, fixed night shifts, rotating shifts and various health implications like preterm delivery, the researchers said they were not able to determine causation of the prenatal risks.

“There are a number of mediating factors related to work schedules that can also impact prenatal health such as smoking, leisure time, physical activity, diet and income,” said Davenport. “We didn’t observe a difference in results between studies adjusting and not adjusting for these factors. This suggests the largest influence is likely the work schedule.”

Chenxi Cai, a post-doctoral fellow who worked with Davenport on the study, said with women making up a significant proportion of the workforce, a synthesis of the data was needed to better understand the health implications of irregular work hours for pregnant women.

“Approximately 90 per cent of women remain employed during pregnancy, which is a significant number,” she said. “We wanted to evaluate the impact of shift work and long working hours during pregnancy to help women and employers make more informed decisions when it relates to occupational hours and pregnancy.”

A strong brand can build your influence

Authenticity, consistency key elements to driving change

Safety practitioners need to consciously build their brand to gain sufficient non-hierarchical influence to drive change. Building a brand takes time, and establishing credibility with a growing audience requires real effort and focus. You will need to be seen as a savvy collaborator and it works like this: collaborators get the opportunity to build their brand; people with strong brands have influence; influential people have power; and power is required to drive transformational change.

So, how do you do it? Simply follow these 11 steps.

Get out of the office. Talk to the rank and file, get your boots dirty and reach out to lend a hand. The “me” people spend more time in the office with the door closed. The “we” people never seem to find time for office work because they are always out collaborating, helping others or volunteering to take on more jobs.

Be a prolific networker. Seize every opportunity to connect with your colleagues in the office, the field and out in the region. Volunteer to take the lead with a special project. Show them that you know what you are doing and you are willing to work hard.

Be a great listener. Great leaders are great listeners. If you’re talking, you’re not listening; if you’re not listening, you’re not learning; and if you’re not learning, it’s only a matter of time before you say something you’ll really regret. Listening more than others is a brand differentiator, a superpower and a top trait among major influencers.

Be known by the existing influencers. Make a list of the most influential people in your company, including hierarchical leaders and non-hierarchical leaders. Get involved with their projects and your currency will grow — and soon you will be thought of as one of them. If you can help them grow their value and influence, yours will grow too.

It’s OK not to know everything. Don’t be afraid to show others that you don’t know how to do something but do make sure to show them that you care. Showing your weaknesses is not actually a weakness in itself; rather, it’s a strength. Others may see your willingness to be open as proof that you “know yourself” and that’s a strength that can help you build bridges and strengthen networks.

Acknowledge the contributions of others. By spending more time giving credit to others and letting them shine, you may, by association, be seen as the real contributor — or at least as a collaborator. This behaviour will enhance your connection to the people you hope to gain influence with. When people around you are adding value to what you’re trying to accomplish, appropriate acknowledgement (publicly, semi-publicly or privately) will help you build better relationships.

Be consistent and get active. It may sound boring, but consistency will be rewarded and your brand will grow. Any activity that gets you out there and allows you to connect with more people — so they can learn what you stand for and hear your message — will help grow your brand. Consistency is associated with strength and intellect.

Be authentic. Make sure your brand is real. If your brand is truly defined by who you are, who you serve, why you are different and what your style is, you should see everything through the lens that is your brand. You can’t fake it without everyone knowing. Being consistent and authentic in your voice and methods will build trust. How you respond in everyday situations matters as much as in the heat of the battle. Manage your brand even when you think nobody is watching.

Articulate your return on investment (ROI). People need to know that working with you and, in fact, following your lead will have a tangible ROI for them. Brand strength is all about your capacity for ROI. People need to know that working with you and interacting with you will create a benefit to them, whether it is tangible or intangible.

Maintain your alignment with the company. Your brand will grow fastest when it is aligned with the corporate brand. Your strategic vision and mission need to reflect that of your organization. Reinforce your brand where you work. Create value where you are allowing your personal and professional brand to thrive simultaneously.

Stand out. To stand out in a crowd you must be distinct and unique. The best way to achieve this status is to dominate in the world of safety and brand yourself as the top safety expert. Lead the safety discipline inside and outside the organization and your brand will grow.

If you take the time to build your brand, you can become known as a thought-leader in the safety field. A key ingredient in driving change is your capacity for influence, and an impactful step in creating influence is building your brand. As safety practitioners, we need a strong brand to drive transformational change.

Workplace harassment experienced by 1 in 5 women: StatsCan

Ranges from disrespect to sexual assault

Harassment and abuse on the job continue to plague many Canadian workplaces, according to a Statistics Canada study. Almost one-fifth (19 per cent) of women and 13 per cent of men reported they suffered some form of harassment in the past year, according to Harassment in Canadian Workplaces. The study said harassment can range from interpersonal mistreatment, such as disrespect, condescension and degradation, to more physical forms of harassment such as physical assault, sexual assault, bullying or the threat of harm.

The problem of harassment in the workplace is most acute for health-care workers, with 22 per cent reporting an incident of abuse during the past year, according to Statistics Canada. Women (53 per cent) are also more likely to say they received harassment from a client or customer than men (42 per cent).

Statistics Canada also found about 47 per cent of men and 34 per cent of women who had been harassed by a supervisor or manager had a weak sense of belonging to their current organization, compared with 16 per cent of both women and men who said they had not been harassed at work in the past year.

One way to get out in front of workplace harassment and abuse is to adopt a more stringent education regime, said Dan Boucher, director of regulatory affairs research at the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR) Alberta in Calgary.

“Our research indicates the most successful tool for reducing harassment involves workplace training,” he said. “For managers and front-line supervisors, they need training that’s going to help them enforce the zero-tolerance policy around harassment.”

Training also needs to be underscored for those who witness workplace abuse, according to Kent Highnam, program director at the School of Health, Community & Social Justice at the Justice Institute of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“To say that ‘We’re going to bully-proof targets’ or ‘We’re going to hunt down all the bullies’ is probably not advisable or even possible. We try to address the bystanders as the most prevalent and the most influential component of creating (a positive) workplace environment,” he said.

But that training needs to be followed up with a culture shift, which must begin with the C-suite.

“They set the tone and they communicate in a lot of ways by their actions what the company culture is,” said Boucher.”If you have a culture that accepts harassment, that’s going to embolden harassers, and it’s going to dissuade people from reporting harassment.”

Communicating an anti-harassment message to clients and customers is also crucial to preventing workplace abuse, according to Highnam.

“Often, people don’t realize that the obligations of creating a safe and respectful workplace extend to service providers and contractors.“

Even though employers might be reluctant to chastise customers for uncivil behaviour towards employees, it is a necessary endeavour, said Wendy Giuffre, president of Wendy Ellen HR consultancy in Calgary.

“If you become aware of an abusive situation with a client, you have to show that you’re protecting your employees and that you don’t tolerate that inside your organization or outside your organization,” she said. “That’s a tough one because that’s money coming in the door — but you also have to show that you stand up for your employees.”

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