At the start of 2010, 14 of the province’s heath and safety associations were consolidated into four organizations in a move to integrate and streamline services.
Workplace Safety North (WSN) resulted from the amalgamation of three previously existing organizations: MASHA (Mines and Aggregates Safety and Health Association), OFSWA (Ontario Forestry Safe Workplace Association), and PPHSA (Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association).
This new organization provides Northern Ontario businesses, industries and services with occupational health and safety resources, and training and consulting services to help companies achieve the goal of zero workplace injuries and illnesses.
Based in North Bay, the organization stands 50 strong with newly appointed CEO Candys Ballanger-Michaud at the helm.
“It was time for change,” she said, explaining that some of those changes will create a greater presence and balance in outlying communities, and reduce overlap in the services.
Clients in the smaller communities, particularly small and micro-businesses throughout the North, were not being reached.
“We’re trying to bridge the gap,” Ballanger-Michaud said.
The imbalance between the forestry and mining sectors was evident prior to WSN. The forestry sector was well represented throughout the North, but about 90 per cent of the consultants and resources in mining were located in North Bay and sent out from there.
As representation increases across the various communities, she is interested in creating working teams within the communities to provide better services.
“They’ll have a much better pulse on what the community needs in terms of service provision,” she said. “That is what the clients have said they want – community-based services.”
Information can be accessed at one central website called Workplacesafetynorth.ca.
Ballanger-Michaud said they are already seeing an impact with the redistribution of health and safety expertise throughout the different sectors. For example, the mining sector now has access to an ergonomist for musculoskeletal problems.
“This is one area where we are leveraging the ergonomist from the pulp and paper, and forestry industries for the mining sector,” she said. “They are happy to have had this service made available and to access a level of expertise they didn’t have before.”
Plans are underway to increase the marketing campaign to inform workplaces about WSN’s services.
“A lot of companies don’t even know that health and safety associations exist to help them,” Ballanger-Michaud said. “So it is really about getting that message out to workplaces to let them know we are here.”