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Big changes are taking place in the automotive industry. These changes are having an impact on health, safety and environmental issues. When changes happen, business owners are faced with choices to deal with new situations.

Bob Greenwood

Both employers and employees, in the automotive sector alike, have two options to choose from, they can use the wait-and-see unmanaged approach for change to happen. When it happens, the unmanaged change will, most often, provide a result which will be less than desirable.

A better approach is to be proactive. Those who do the best job in planning and managing the safety and health component of their business will have greater control of the outcome which is most beneficial for themselves and their employees. Too often employers and employees have a reactive rather than proactive focus. There is a lack of understanding of the consequences of inaction.

Risks and hazards are poorly communicated and safety is considered a cost, not an investment.
Also a cost/benefit analysis is rarely applied to justify the safety case and retrofitting is never as cost-effective as designing it right initially.

What impact does this have on your business?
The negative impacts of work-related injuries on your business include, but are not limited to:

Time lost from work by injured employees
Lost time by fellow employees
Loss of efficiency due to break-up of crew
Lost time by supervisor
Training costs for new/replacement workers
Damage to tools and equipment
Time damaged equipment is out of service
Loss of production for remainder of the day
Damage from accident: fire, water, chemical, explosives, etc.
Failure to fill orders/meet deadlines
Overhead costs while work was disrupted

Another way to view the negative impact of even one accident/incident on the business is the effect on direct/indirect cost and the effect on the bottom line.

If your gross profit averages 20% and direct/indirect costs total $5,000 you would need an additional $25,000.00 in sales just to break even. You do the math. An additional impact which business must be aware of is the effect on workers’ compensation. WCB only pays direct costs, which include medical bills, a percentage of lost wages, maybe some travel expenses and prescription costs. 

It does not cover the indirect costs, which might include lost productivity. People want to see what happened, want to help. There may be a need to clean up after an accident. The accident could shut an area of the building down temporarily. A lost worker, either temporarily or permanently causes a need to train a new person, hire a temp or transfer someone from another department. Quality suffers; customer relations suffer, sales departments have to work harder and so on.

Work place injuries dramatically increase the premiums paid to the Workers Compensation Insurance program. Here is a challenge for you.

Check your current WCB premiums and compare with previous years to determine if you are making progress or falling behind your own performance and that of your peers/competitors. You will be astonished at your findings. Most business owners who have completed this exercise determined the potential WCB premium savings alone were significantly greater than the cost of implementing and maintaining an effective safety program.

The need to establish and maintain a comprehensive safety program is a human, financial, social, emotional and environmental obligation. The need is not only related to the aforementioned. The Occupational Health and Safety Act demands employers and employees to comply with its regulations. It’s the law.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (1) came into force with the purpose of protecting workers against health and safety risks and hazards on the job. The main features of the Act are manifested in select aspects of the “Internal Responsibility System” (IRS).

The IRS is a system, within an organization, where everyone has direct responsibility for health and safety as an essential part of their work. No matter where or who the person is in the organization, they can address safety in a way that fits with what they do. Every person must take the initiative to improve health and safety on an on-going basis.

The IRS is the foundation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The IRS requires a sound and comprehensive management system, structure, policies and procedures. It is most effective when accountability is gauged and emphasis is given by all parties to exercise their own measure of due diligence. Due diligence is a legal concept which a court of law will apply if charged under the Canada Labour Code.

It is a principal of defence, which you as an employer use to show that you have taken all reasonable care to protect your employees from an accident. To meet the test of due diligence, you must take all reasonable precautions in the circumstances to carry out your work and your safety and health responsibilities.

Bill C-45 became law on March 31, 2004 and is now the new Section 217.1 in the Criminal Code, which reads: “2.17.1 Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.” The bill established new legal duties for workplace health and safety, and imposes serious penalties for violations that result in injuries or death. 

It also establishes rules for attributing criminal liability to organizations, including corporations, for the acts of their representatives and also creates a legal duty for all persons directing work to take “reasonable steps” to ensure the safety of workers and the public. The road to exercising due diligence is to develop a practical, working safety program. It begins with a commitment by management to fully endorse the program and implement the plan in conjunction with employees. Here’s how to get started:

7 Steps to a Safer Workplace

1. Health and Safety Policy
Develop a statement of the employer’s commitment to the health and safety program, including the aims of the program and the responsibilities of the employer, supervisors and workers.

2. Regular Inspection
Regularly monitor work procedures, equipment and machinery to ensure hazards to workers are eliminated and controlled.

3. Education and Training
Make sure workers know about all pertinent hazards in the workplace; are familiar with health and safety regulations that apply and ensure that workers demonstrate competency at the tasks they are required to perform.

4. Regular Meetings
Discuss health and safety matters, identify any unsafe condition or practice and implement solutions to any health or safety concerns.

5. Accident Investigation
Determine the causes of accidents and near-misses so that corrective actions can be taken to prevent similar incidents.

6. Records and Statistics
Maintain a first aid treatment record book, inspection and accident investigation reports and records of program activities and training. These will allow you to identify trends of unsafe conditions or work procedures.

7. Maintaining an Effective Program
Review the program annually to identify the extent of effectiveness and deficiencies of the existing health and safety activities. Examine the potential for future injury and the progress of the organization’s current safety effort. Maintain a strong commitment to safety policies and procedures and the interest and involvement of the workers. A safety-minded business will enjoy an enhanced reputation, cost and risk reduction, improved quality, productivity, efficiency, and employee morale as well as access to more markets. Many organizations cannot justify employing their own professional staff to guide them through the maze of compliance and safety legislation. Some services, like those offered by The Safety Group, feature comprehensive and customized training to ensure employers have the most current and reliable information related to compliance.

For more information on this training, contact Richard Pelley at The Safety Group. Pelley can be reached by email at: Credits: Canada Labour Code Part II, Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association & Worksafe BC.

About The Author: Terry Waterfield is ta highly experienced editor to Auto Atlanttic
He may be contacted at (902)-422-1722 or email him at:

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