Learning about safety is 'humbling' business, says expert

Safety innovator's unique approach informed by 'life-changing experiences' visiting every type of industry

Learning about safety is 'humbling' business, says expert

"There’s an element of risk everywhere,” says Dr. Sujoy Dey, whose innovative approach to risk has been instrumental in updating Ontario’s health and safety strategy.

He started his career in New Jersey, U.S., where he completed his studies and started his career in in program management and process excellence in the pharmaceutical industry.

Through his role, he learned about the foundational but practical elements of risk assessment and management. His work focused on risk, data modelling, and resource capacity forecasting for research and development (R&D) programs supporting the drug development process.

Dey and his family decided to move to Canada. In Toronto, he continued to work for the pharmaceutical industry in the US, but in a consulting role.

Eventually, he landed a job in the Ontario public service sector in the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, and later joined the Ministry of Environment to implement their integrated risk management framework.

Dey is now Corporate Risk Officer at the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development where he led industry and government stakeholders in the execution and implementation of a risk assessment and management approach that was pioneered at the Ministry of Labour, Training & Skills Development in Ontario.

This included providing scientific and engineering guidance and partnering with health and safety associations in the development of risk controls. More recently, his role has evolved more corporately to provide leadership in the implementation of the Enterprise Risk Management Framework across the ministry and agencies.

“We envisioned, designed and developed a risk assessment approach,” says Dey, which is now foundational to the new occupational health and safety strategy for Ontario.

“It’s a unique approach,” he says, which harnesses the collective wisdom across the sector in a tripartite process to focus the industry and system partners on the highest risks to health and safety. This is a “for the industry, by the industry” approach, says Dey, which draws on a deeper understanding of risk and recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

He says that the idea was also to move away from a “blame culture” and focus more deeply on systemic risks and how the causal factors manifested themselves, through a collaborative analysis with stakeholders. This is now a best practice for engagement and collaboration for robust risk assessments.

Dey says that the favourite part of his role was his intimate “interactions with his frontline colleagues, health and safety associations and industry partners – both employers and workers.”

“I literally lived out of a suitcase! I travelled extensively in Ontario and learned about various sectors for both small and large businesses. I had the opportunity to visit many work locations to observe and educate myself on real life situations in sectors such as construction, hospitals, greenhouses, logging and sawmills. I had the opportunity to visit both surface and underground mines. “I knew so little, but learned so much!”, says Dey. “These were enriching, life changing experiences that allowed me to understand the various types of work and livelihoods, and associated risks that the system may not be totally aware of. says Dey.

“It was a very humbling experience, and it was fantastic,” he says. I made solid relationships and many friends across Ontario. My experiences working with [these partners] was nothing short of brilliant. We worked together at creating something that was unique in its approach.”

Dey says that what still remains a challenge is changing people’s way of thinking about risk:

“The challenge is always advocating for greater maturity in risk-based decision making, for a meaningful risk assessment process […] and for working towards an open and risk-aware culture.”

As a regulator, we want to support, encourage, advise and help businesses grow safely.”

He says that part of what motivates is to hear stories where a risk assessment approach could have prevented an injury or fatality.

Part of his approach is to move away from the stereotype of a ‘safety cop’ and be a partner to organizations to help them to truly understand the risk, their root causes and to provide meaningful guidance on developing better prevention strategies and targeted interventions.