Is it time for a national health and safety conference?

Ontario is also gearing up for its annual health and safety conference and trade show, the Partners in Prevention, which will be held on May 1 and 2 at the International Centre in Mississauga. This, according to the event’s website, is Canada’s largest health and safety event.

There is also the Health and Safety Conference Society of Alberta’s annual conference, which takes place in the fall. This year, it will be held in Edmonton from November 19 to 21.

The Canadian Society of Safety Engineering’s (CSSE’s) annual conference is also happening in the fall. The CSSE chooses a different venue for the show each year. Last year it was in Whistler, B.C., and this year, it will be held in Niagara Falls, Ont., on September 19 to 12.

Quebec also has its own annual health and safety conference, organized by the CSST (La Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail) — the province’s workers’ compensation agency.

These are some of the major health and safety conferences and tradeshows that take place across Canada each year. There are quite a few more regional health and safety events that may not be getting the same attention as the other ones, but offer equally valuable content.

Thousands of Canadian safety professionals attend these events every year to network and share best practices with their peers, and keep abreast with the latest trends and issues in the health and safety world.

Every year, I cover these conferences for Canadian Occupational Safety and, every year, I wonder why there isn’t a single, truly national health and safety conference. The answer perhaps has to do with Canada’s legislative landscape — each province having its own set of occupational health and safety laws and regulations, therefore facing its own unique set of health and safety requirements, issues and challenges.

It’s possible Canada’s jurisdictional distinctions may be the reason for the proliferation of these regional events, and the lack of one national health and safety conference.

But these differences can be a powerful tool for learning, as well. Professional networking is all about sharing best practices and learning from other people’s experiences. So, why not capitalize on this diversity and create a national health and safety conference that brings together safety professionals from east to west under one roof?

The Canada Safety Council would be a good candidate to spearhead this effort — not unlike the National Safety Council (NSC) in the United States, which hosts the annual NSC Congress and Expo, a national event for health and safety practitioners and organizations.

This is easier said than done. It will take an enormous amount of political will and national collaboration to pull this off. One thing’s for sure, however: many folks in the health and safety field would welcome it.

And why wouldn’t they? For one thing, having to go to one, big national show instead of two or three regional conferences every year could mean significant budget savings — both for attendees and exhibitors.

For another, the opportunity for learning will be enormous, because the scope, content and resources that a national event can offer will be much more diverse.

But, one can only hope. In the meantime, we will continue to cover these events for you, our readers, and report on some of the most important happenings at these conferences.

Next stop, Vancouver.