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VIRTUAL CEREMONY, REAL-LIFE HEROES
Our 2021 Canada’s Safest Employers Awards spotlighted those individuals and organizations really making a difference in OHS
For the second year running, Canada’s Safest Employers Awards has been held virtually. Though we do miss meeting — and congratulating — people face-to-face, the wonderful thing about going digital is that safety professionals can join in from around Canada from the comfort of their own homes.
And doing things virtually certainly hasn’t done anything to dampen the spirit of our nominees, winners and sponsors. We are grateful to everyone who joined in on October 21 and made the event one to remember.
Sheridon Taylor, Senior Vice President, Primoris Canada, described the ceremony as a “remarkable event recognizing leaders in safety across Canada and across a variety of industries,” adding that “the ceremony inspires us all and celebrates the great work done across the country by so many Companies in improving worker safety.” Primoris was the sponsor of our Safety Leader of the Year award.
Speaking about our newly minted Safety Leader extraordinaire, George Minow, Manager of Health, Safety and Wellness, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro, said while accepting his award: “I truly appreciate this honour for a career of service meant to help others do the right thing.” Minow had an abundance of valuable advice for young OHS hopefuls.
Speaking about those wishing to enter the profession, Minow said that the best way to learn about health and safety is to listen to those safety professionals who are well-established in the sector: “We have a great many talented, well-educated persons entering the profession…. Pick up all the information you can from a seasoned pro — that’s how I began.”
Mentorship is key for many safety professionals wishing to advance in the sector. As OHS has gone from being an occupation to a profession and full-blown career choice, gleaning advice from industry icons is invaluable.
All of our stellar winners and finalists were keen to share their expert advice with those who tuned in for the day. Canadian Occupational Safety hosted a number of panel sessions during the lead up to the announcement ceremony. We had panels focused on mental health, sustainability, mentorship and youth engagement, building a safety culture, etc. There was truly something for everyone. Panel recordings from the October 21 virtual event are available on-demand at www.thesafetymag.com/ca/video.
What is so unique about safety professionals is that they truly love helping each other out, and sharing with each other — because safety is everyone’s concern. Minow spoke of the value of sharing among safety professionals. This is a sentiment shared by a lot of our winners and nominees who say that safety is not propriety and that organizations should share their best practices — especially amid COVID: “When it comes to safety, we can all do better by sharing what we do to keep people safe and healthy, including mental health and wellness.”
David Gandossi, CEO and President, Mercer International — and winner of CEO of the Year — echoed the sentiment. Speaking about his journey in health and safety, he says that he reached out to various safety leaders when he was building his organization’s safety program: “When I became CEO, I recognized that our safety performance wasn’t where it needed to be. One nice thing about health and safety is that everybody is willing to share.”
During the pandemic, being a safety professional has been an especially tough gig: “Especially for the services sector, it can be extremely challenging to keep up with all the specific requirements and regulations manually. By sponsoring this award, we recognize the exceptional performance of the professionals hard at work keeping their facilities safe,” says Avetta, who kindly sponsored our award for Safest Employer in the Services Sector.
But being a safety leader is also about embracing these challenges. It can be a difficult role, which is why being passionate about worker health and safety is key.
“I worked in the field as a welder’s helper and have family friends in the workplace in remote locations, working long shifts. Now that I’ve moved to a corporate role, I have an absolute passion to try to make a difference, ensure people don’t get hurt when they go to work and see how I can help reduce barriers that allow for that to happen,” says Shannon Caron, Director of Safety, Environment and Transportation at Michels Canada.
Michels is the winner of the 2021 WSIB Award for Canada’s Best Health and Safety Culture. Speaking about the win, Caron says: “I’m so grateful! I also think we are very deserving and it makes me feel so thankful for the support I have from my company and all the individuals in our company that helped us get here. Our nominees and finalists have a passion for what they do and a passion for helping others.
“I love my job — how lucky am I? I never thought I’d be one of those people who could say that they love their job. But I am, I really love what I do,” said Minow.
Speaking about the qualities of a good safety leader, Gandossi says: “The individual has got to have gravitas. [They] need to be true leaders; they can’t be schooled in safety without being good leaders.” In addition, good leadership is something that develops over time, he says — “you can’t learn it in a schoolroom. They’re hard shoes to fill.”
“Safety professionals play such a vital role within an organization in terms of the business’s overall success. They must have extraordinary leadership skills and a determined vision around continual HSE performance improvement to be successful in the profession. They require a remarkable ability to understand system & cultural improvement areas against a backdrop of legislation, client requirements and company objectives. In consideration of the inherent impact potential, skill set requirements and demands of the role as safety professionals,” says Taylor.
We are also very grateful to our sponsors, many of whom have been supporting the awards for a number of years now and are keen to demonstrate their commitment to worker health and safety. “CIAC has been a proud sponsor of Canada’s Safest Chemistry Employer for 4 years. For nearly 40 years, Canada’s chemistry sector has led the journey towards safe, responsible, and sustainable chemical manufacturing through its U.N.-recognized chemistry ESG, Responsible Care,” says Shannon Watt, Vice-President, Sustainability, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) — one of our awards sponsors. “Our industry believes the safety of our employees and all Canadians is of paramount importance.”
“The oil and gas Industry is one of these workplaces that we work closely with each and every day. We are extremely excited and proud to sponsor Canada’s Safest Oil and Gas Employer,” says MSA Safety. “With all the additional challenges faced by safety professionals over the past year, we are excited to help support and join in on the recognition of the many men and women who went over and above to keep their employees safe in 2021. Sharing best practices and lessons learned with these individuals will help us to consistently innovate and create safer environments for our workers.”
We are immensely grateful to all of our sponsors, and would like to extend a huge thank you to Avetta, BGIS, Bruce Power, CIAC, MSA Safety, Primoris, WSIB and WSPS for their continued support. We would also like to thank our esteemed judges for lending their time and expertise to help recognize and celebrate excellence in occupational health and safety.
For almost two years now, our safety heroes have been on the frontlines ensuring that workers are as healthy and safe as possible. It’s been a herculean task. But the silver lining is that safety professionals have been able to showcase what they do best: lead with passion, with understanding and with an admirable drive that has only been strengthened by the hardships of the pandemic.
Read on to find out more about the winners of the 2021 Canada’s Safest Employers Awards. Key Media and Canadian Occupational Safety, along with our esteemed sponsors, would like to congratulate all of this year’s winners and nominees, who truly exemplify excellence in the Canadian occupational health and safety profession.
The WSIB Award for Canada's Best Health & Safety Culture
Best Health, Safety and Environment Management Program
Best Wellness and Psychological Safety Program
Canada’s Safest Employer for Young Workers
Canada’s Safest Logistics and Supply Chain Employer
Canada’s Safest Manufacturing Employer
Canada’s Safest Mining & Natural Resources Employer
Canada’s Safest New Employer
Canada’s Safest Public Sector/Non-Profit Employer
- Saskatchewan Government Insurance
Canada’s Safest Public Transportation Employer
Canada's Safest Utilities and Electrical Employer
Innovation in Industrial Hygiene Award
Most Innovative Use of Safety Technology
- BGIS Global Integrated Solutions (Near Miss/ Hazard Observation (NM/HO) Mobile Application)
The Avetta Award for Canada’s Safest Employer in Services Sector
The BGIS Award for Best Safety Industry Provider
- Alberta Construction Safety Association
The Bruce Power Award for Canada’s Safest Construction Employer
The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada Award for Canada’s Safest Chemistry Employer
The MSA Safety Award for Canada’s Safest Oil & Gas Employer
The Primoris Award for Safety Leader of the Year
- George Minow - Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro
The WSPS Award For CEO of the Year
- David Gandossi - Mercer International