The David Ellis Award — Sponsored by eCompliance

For 17 years, MySafeWork has been committed to celebrating companies that are serious about continuously improving their safety standards.

We do this for a reason. By acknowledging safety leadership, safety standards are raised for everyone. We do this because Canadians deserve to know what companies are committed to protecting their employees.

So, on Thursday, July 14th, MySafeWork will be handing out the first ever David Ellis award, sponsored by eCompliance at the Inaugural Safety Talks 2016 event. The award will be given to a Canadian company that has shown an outstanding commitment to safety, an increase in worker participation, and strong levels of engagement throughout their organization.

If you’d like to attend the event, simply click here to reserve your spot for the afternoon.

Edmonton Oilers Jersey Gets into the Safety Signature Mix

In temperatures reaching almost -20 C in Acheson, Alberta this week, we had a bracing experience talking to executives and workers at Supreme Modular Fabrication, Inc. (SMFI) as part of their 2016 Fresh Start program. We were joined by SMFI leadership team members John Leder, Herb Hill, Allan Layte and Kevin Guile.
SMFI owns, operates, and delivers a full range of unique module assembly and fabrication services to the energy & chemicals, power, and mining industries, from its 54-plus-acre module yard. They pride themselves in having a health, security, safety, and environmental (HSSE) culture.
SMFI signed Oiler Jersey of Courage
The Edmonton Oilers jersey was used as a “Jersey of Courage,” gathering “signatures for safety” alongside the usual Team Canada jerseys.
SMFI general manager Herb Hill, Rob Ellis, SMFI exec John Leder, and Greg Walter.
Left to right: SMFI general manager Herb Hill, Rob Ellis, SMFI exec John Leder, and Greg Walter.

Why Hasn’t Bill C-45 Lived Up to Its Promise?

Bill C-45 hasn’t lived up to its potential to hold companies criminally responsible for workplace injuries and death in Canada.

Its remarkable that two generations of workers are saying the same things about safety. In the open Q&A period at Seneca College this week, we had HR graduates asking the corporate leaders why we are not seeing faster progress in workplace safety in Canada. Here were a few of the questions:

1.  Why has Bill C-45 not lived up to its initial promise? It looked like a tough piece of federal legislation brought in after the Westray mine disaster in 1992 that killed 26 Nova Scotian miners.
Unfortunately Bill C-45 has not sent a decisive message to businesses that continue to operate below the compliance regulation. In the future we may begin to see more police investigations into workplace incidents. This will help enforce Bill C-45 legislation of possible jail time or fines for senior executives.

2. If employees have the right to know and participate, why do many small employers and contractors not have joint health and safety committees or a health and safety executive? For new and young workers, it’s a big problem if the boss refuses to listen to a concern. Most young workers receive their first work experience with a small business or contractor and are not experienced enough to report their concerns to their boss or the Ministry of Labour.

Reaching out to small business owners will be a priority for MySafeWork in the future. Developing a great orientation and training program within a buddy system is  still the best way of building confidence of a new and young workers.
What do you think? Can more be done to enforce Bill C-45? Are small business owners doing all they can to ensure the safety and wellness of their employee? Leave a comment here or Tweet us @mysafework.

Why is Driver Training More Important than Workplace Training?

teen_girl_drivingWe don’t treat our youth getting behind the wheel of a car lightly; it’s a heavily regulated, restrictive process that takes years. But when young workers start at a job, especially small businesses where most of them work, sufficient training is rare. Why the discrepancy? Is the risk of injury or death somehow less important in a kitchen, office, warehouse or factory than it is when driving on roads and highways?

This morning my daughter Jess and I were joined at Woodland High School in Mississauga by safety champions from Carillion, Walsh, Hydro One and Enersource utilities to speak to hundreds of multicultural students. The leaders were surprised by the level of discussion.

Many of the student questions focused on “I can’t quit my unsafe job when my family is depending upon my earnings to help pay for food and rent.”  The reality is that there are many young workers working for small employers who are paying them cash under the table. When that is the case, you can be sure proper safety training is low on their list of priorities, if even on the list!

The correct answer came from an Enersource safety champion today: “If you get hurt while working for a bad employer, you will not be able to provide the extra income for your family. You need to find an employer who will provide you with a strong orientation and training program and allow you to slowly gain experience. Personal safety always comes before the money. Please talk to your parents about the importance of finding a safer job.”

The young man who won this morning’s prize for asking the best question, asked:
If adults in Ontario spend so much money training young students on how to drive why are young workers not getting the same consideration in being trained in the workplace?
He’s bang-on right: We put all of our kids through three rigorous and nerve wracking stages of Beginners, G1 and Permanent driver’s license. And it’s so good we do! However, as noted, most small businesses – where most new/young workers will be hired – do NOT offer that kind of rigorous training in safety and health at work.
What do you think? Do you think young workers would continue to be injured three times more than experienced workers if employer invested the time, effort and money needed for sufficient safety training?
Leave your comment here or Tweet us @mysafework.

Thankful for Respect, Responsibility and Relationships

Photo by Dan Janisse/The Windsor Star
Photo by Dan Janisse/The Windsor Star, Oct. 2015

I LOVE the banner that was hanging at St. Joseph’s High School in Windsor last week as I spoke about my family’s story of loss. These 3 words – Respect, Responsibility and Relationships – I believe are the keys to stopping workplace accidents/deaths and occupational illness.

These are the ‘3 Rs’ I like to bring to educators and students when I and my daughter, Jess, speak at so many dozens of schools across Canada each year. We thank every school – and workplace and association and government body – for giving us the opportunity to help stop workplace disrespect that results in sickness, injury and death.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for:

  • Respect – for human value in general, for workers’ safety, health and wellbeing in particular.
  • Responsibility – legal and moral responsibility by employers to take care of their workers.
  • Relationships – people helping people because they care, because it’s the right thing to do.

What are YOU thankful for this Thanksgiving long weekend?

Happy Canada Day – Take a (Safe) Day Off Work

Momentum is growing for safer workplaces in Ontario and across Canada, and that’s a great reason to celebrate this Canada Day!

Last week I had the privilege of bringing our Jersey of Courage – which has garnered almost half a million signatures so far from employees, employers, students and educators over a large collection of jerseys – to a private audience with the premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne and Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour. I visited her office with a group of industry leaders, including Craig Lesurf, VP, Walsh Canada;  Clive Thurston, executive director of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA).

canada flagWe will begin to fill the Premier’s jersey of courage with signatures of the best leaders from OGCA and buyers of OGCA projects.

Let’s celebrate this great nation of Canada – let’s put the safety of all Canadian employees front and centre on everyone’s radar – from the top levels of government down to the owners and supervisors at small firms.

Happy Canada Day!

wynne flynn

Straight Talk on Safety between Leaders & Students

“My dad works in that tunnel underneath the Falls, there are a lot of close calls; what should he do?” That was the question asked by a student of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School, in Oakville, Ontario, yesterday, specifically addressing the Ontario Minister of Labour and MPP, Oakville, Kevin Flynn, who had just shared a personal story of how his own son saved the life of a man in that very tunnel under Niagara Falls…

Ontario Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn
Ontario Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn

Minister Flynn said that his son was told he wasn’t needed and to ‘get lost’ by the electrician working there, but he didn’t. He went around the corner and waited, because he didn’t want to leave the electrician alone on the job – moving heavy rocks onto a conveyor belt where they would end up dropping 200 ft. A few minutes later, Flynn’s son heard shouting and loud banging sounds, and when he ran back, saw the electrician had fallen onto the conveyor belt that would drop him to his death; he pulled the man off. (His employer gave him a $75 gift card to an electronics store; the man whose life he saved also owns a restaurant/bar in Niagara Falls, where Flynn’s son will be able to eat and drink for free forever!)

The St. Thomas Aquinas student was given the great advice to talk to his dad as soon as possible about speaking up about any risks he sees with his employer in his heavy construction job. Participants at the event yesterday, in fact, included the head of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), which is working hard to reduce the number of accidents in construction and industrial build sites.

Oakville Hydro - Rob Lister
Rob Lister (right), CEO, Oakville Hydro

Other organizations represented at the high school event yesterday included:

There were many other excellent questions from the student body, fielded by various corporate leaders. As well, we held the #LostLimbs Challenge where four students undertook the eating-with-their-hands-behind-back challenge.

It was a huge event – as the long-shot photo (at the end of this blog post) of the school auditorium stage, crammed with dozens of corporate leaders, will attest. It takes skill to communicate and hold the attention of a young audience.

We’re pleased with the progress we’ve seen with leaders talking with young workers about safety – but there’s room for improvement. Let’s keep making a real difference for tomorrow’s leaders in our great nation!

#LostLimbs Challenge at Erindale Secondary School

We’ve just launched a new challenge that we fully expect to go as viral as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge… it’s called The #LostLimbs Challenge!

Yesterday, the students at Erindale Secondary School, in Mississauga, ON, were right into the #LostLimbs Challenge to try and eat various food items such as these teen boys tackling croissants! (As you can see we were calling it the MySafeWork Challenge then.)

Our event today doing the #mysafework challenge #lostlimbs

A video posted by Rob Ellis (@mysafework) on


As well, we’re asking folks to txt safety to 45678 to donate $10 to our organization, MySafeWork, so we can continue to take the message out to thousands of young workers each year on the importance of knowing their rights, and speaking up, for the safest work conditions!

#LostLimbs draws attention to the unacceptable number of young people (and other aged workers) who are seriously injured, or killed, on the job. Did you know that…

  • More than 1 million young people in North America will be injured this year at work!
  • 3 people in Canada die every single day because of workplace accidents!

If you want to help stop this madness, please post your short video of yourself and/or your friends doing the #LostLimbs challenge to Instagram. And text safety to 45678 to donate!

You can see more videos here at

What do YOU think? Can you imagine your life without limbs because of some stupid preventable accident at work?? Will you take the #LostLimbs Challenge?!!

Q & A with Elizabeth Witmer, Chair, WSIB

By Jessica Di Sabatino

I met in December 2014 with Elizabeth Witmer, the Chair of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Her exceptional leadership and career help remind me why Canada is helping to lead the way in the areas of health and safety.  It is because of people like Ms. Witmer that we can expect to continue to live in a province where health and safety continues to be at the forefront of our government’s agenda, and why I believe we can be optimistic about the future of Ontario’s workforce.

Tell us some of your own personal background and why safety has become personally important to you.

Safety has always been very important to me. At the beginning of my career as a physical education teacher,it was always important for me to create a safe environment for the students.

Then, when I became the Minister of Labour, workplace health and safety became an absolute priority as a result of a visit from Paul Kells, his wife and his daughter who came to see me to share the story of their son, Sean, who was tragically killed on the third day of his part-time job. Sean was only nineteen years old.

This conversation had a tremendous impact on me, especially because Sean and my son, Scott, were the same age, and so I left that conversation determined to make workplace health and safety a top priority in my mandate as the Minister of Labour.

As a result, we developed a Young Workers Awareness Program that took us into the high schools to speak to students and educate young people about health and safety and their rights and their responsibilities at work.  I believe it is important to recommit ourselves on a daily basis to making safety a priority in the workplace.

In a recent interview, Mark Ward, the CEO of Syncrude, stated that there is a direct link between safety performance, productivity, profitability and the future of our company.  Can you comment on this statement?

Recently, the WSIB looked at health and safety and the impact it has on the province’s economy and we found a direct correlation. The safety performance of workplaces results in fewer injuries and this positively impacts the provincial economy and productivity.

The WSIB has launched the Return to Work program, and a new medical strategy, to help injured workers return to work safely and more quickly. Our efforts are focused on injured workers receiving the right medical care as soon as possible and helping them return to work. As a result there were over 2 million fewer productive days lost in 2012 than just 3 years before. That represents an almost $1 billion injection straight back into the Ontario GDP. That is good news for everyone and demonstrates the link to the safety performance of a company.

It is expected that more than 125,000 young people will report being injured while on the job this year. What do you think is the most effective approach to bringing these numbers down?

Young worker health and safety is a challenge. However, I believe education continues to be the key to reducing the number of injuries. That is why I established the Young Workers Awareness Program as Minister of Labour. YWAP broadened the high school curriculum to educate young people about workplace safety and their rights and responsibilities.  In addition to general workplace education there must be specific training for young people before they start each new job. This means we must continually remind employers about the importance and necessity of training the young workers they hire. We must keep raising awareness of the need to keep our workplaces healthy and safe. This is where advertising and marketing campaigns are crucial to getting the message across to the general public. We must continue to search for more creative means to communicate the need of safe and healthy workplaces.

Strong leadership has always been at the forefront of every cultural movement.  If a safety culture is to permeate every business across Ontario, what leadership qualities are necessary in order to make this a reality?

A culture of safety starts at the top.  Today’s leaders and employers must have a strong commitment to healthy and safe workplaces and encourage employees and employers to work together to achieve that goal.

I’m currently optimistic because I believe many organizations today have leaders who are committed to health and safety.  I have had the opportunity to meet with many employers across the province and have been impressed with their health and safety achievements. I have met strongly committed individuals within each of these workplaces who have worked hard and in collaboration with their colleagues to successfully reduce the number of incidences and lost time injuries and illnesses. A strong commitment from both the health and safety manager as well as the President is paramount in improving an organization’s health and safety performance.

What role do you think WSIB plays in making our province a better place to live and work?

We have a key role in making our province a better place to live and work and we do place a high priority on healthy and safe workplaces. Our Board continues to consider what more we can do to ensure that we are delivering on that part of our mandate that relates to health and safety. We work in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and the Chief Prevention Officer on the prevention of injuries and illness.  We will continue to look for more opportunities to support and encourage Ontario’s workplaces to improve their health and safety outcomes to make Ontario a better place to live and work.

Keeping Ontario General Contractors Safe On Site

Jobsite safety has long been a priority for the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA), and for this reason MySafeWork is proud to partner with the association! As discussed in this video from Commercial News magazine, the partnership is a memorandum of understanding to jointly promote safety in construction.

The OGCA is one of the founding sponsors of the WSIB’s (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) Safety Groups Program. Since its inception in 2000, OGCA members have achieved over $7,500,000 dollars in rebates. The association states that its members outperform non-members by 40% when it comes to preventing injuries and providing training.

Through strong alliances with the Ontario Association of Architects, the Consulting Engineers of Ontario, the Ontario Realty Corp./Infrastructure Ontario, and the Canadian Construction Association, the OGCA advocates for the construction industry at all levels of government and keeps members abreast of what is happening in the industry.

MySafeWork is delighted to be working with general contractors across the province of Ontario, through the OGCA – an industry that faces particular challenges around workplace safety.

If you are a general contractor, we’d love to hear your thoughts about safety in your industry! Leave us a comment, below, at this blog post, or Tweet us @mysafework.