To Safe & Healthy Workplaces
By Dennis Lindberg, P.Eng.
These days, it is next to impossible to turn on the radio or TV, or to open a newspaper without running across some mention of the bright future predicted for the Alberta economy in the next few years.
Fair to say, APEGGAs members have had a significant part to play in opening up these opportunities, and they no doubt will fill key roles as many of these plans become realities. With many projects competing for available resources including human resources it is important that these assets be used prudently and efficiently. But efficiency must never be confused with cutting corners. This is all the more important when it comes to ensuring safety in the widest sense of the word.
As individual members of the professions and as an Association, we have a prime responsibility to hold public safety paramount. Sometimes we may be inclined to think that our professional obligation centres on just ensuring that the structures or systems we design can be used safely by the public, with a minimal impact on the environment. But our commitment to safety extends beyond design to ensuring the practices carried out on the construction site, the plant or on a drilling rig meet high standards of occupational health and safety. Many of our members find themselves in supervisory positions and therefore able to influence standards and expectations on job sites. As economic activity heats up, in some instances, there may be a tendency to hire inexperienced staff, new to a particular industry or technology. I believe we have a particular responsibility to ensure those workers (and of course all staff) understand and apply safe standards.
Memorandum of Understanding
On Jan. 20, as an Association, we had an opportunity to reiterate our commitment to healthier and safer Alberta workplaces. I was pleased to join Alberta Deputy Minister of Labor Peter Kruselnicki, P.Eng., in signing a Memorandum of Understanding, making APEGGA a partner with Alberta Labor in the promotion of occupational health and safety in the province. We have joined a number of other associations, as well as employers (including a number of APEGGA Permit Holders) who have made similar commitments. Under this Partnerships in Health & Safety Program, the partners agree to :
u raising the awareness of the importance of worker health and safety;
u promoting the values of an effective health and safety program; and
u assisting in the development, implementation and evaluation of health and safety programs.
While we are very pleased to now have received a Certificate of Partnership from Alberta Labor, I would like to emphasize that APEGGA has long been committed to safety principles. Indeed, we have put our money where our mouth is by providing financial backing to the very successful Industrial Safety and Loss Management Program, offered by the University of Albertas Faculty of Engineering, and headed by Professor Laird Wilson, P.Eng.
Safety and Loss Management Program
My predecessor, Fred Otto, P.Eng., PhD, had an opportunity to outline in some detail aspects of this program in his Presidents Notebook of November 1996. In addition to providing financial support to the U of As Industrial Safety and Loss Management Program, APEGGA is represented on an Industry/Government Advisory Committee which offers its insight and input to the program. With the active co-operation of Professor Wilson and the program, APEGGA has developed a draft publication "Basic Learnings in Industrial Safety and Loss Management". As noted in its preface: "The intention of the document is to give engineers, geologists and geophysicists a basic understanding of industrial safety and loss management and provide a guideline of the best industry practices."
I believe a critical contribution of the Industrial Safety and Loss Management Program is that it reaches those aspiring to enter our professions at a formative stage when good safety habits can be shaped which will last through their careers. This will benefit not only the APEGGA professionals but all who come in contact with them or their work.
Job Safety Skills
There may even be a role for APEGGA to play before the university level. The Job Safety Skills For Young Workers Program, developed by the Alberta-based not-for-profit Job Safety Skills Society, is a school-based safety education program. With the backing of major Alberta corporations once again including several APEGGA Permit Holders the program aims to reduce work-related fatalities and injuries. Too often such tragedies involve young workers between age 15 and 24. Though they make up less than a fifth of the workforce, employees in that age bracket suffer more than a quarter of all work-related injuries.
Whether old or young, the victims are not only those injured, maimed or killed, and their immediate family. The costs emotional and financial ripple out to affect many others. Its one ripple effect we can do without and our Association is committed to helping prevent such incidents from happening in the first place.
With the signing of the Occupational Health & Safety Partnership Memorandum of Agreement, APEGGA has made a very public declaration of our belief that when it comes to industrial health and safety, remediation is no substitute for prevention.