OHS leader hopes to combat workplace stigma with new role

Industry expert hopes to encourage more people to speak up when they have safety concerns

OHS leader hopes to combat workplace stigma with new role

Lee-Anne Lyon-Bartley Executive Vice President, Health, Safety, Environment and Quality, Dexterra, has recently added a new string to her bow.

Freshly appointed to the Prevention Council of Ontario as a part-time member, the trailblazer says: “I’m really looking forward to contributing.”

The Prevention Council is legislated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and advises the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development and the Chief Prevention Officer on a wide range of occupational health and safety issues for the province of Ontario.

Through her experience, Lyon-Bartley says that she has quite a bit that she can share with the Council.

“My experience is broad, I’ve lived and worked in other provinces. So, I think that perspective and lens might be something that hopefully is appreciated on the Council.”

Lyon-Bartley says that participating in the Council is “another example of how you can collectively improve – and continuously improve – occupational health and safety. I’m looking forward to collaborating with all the different stakeholders to hopefully make some improvements along the way.”

One of her big goals is to improve the workplace stigma around speaking up: “One of my hopes is to maybe influence or be able to improve the stigma around being able to speak up when you have health and safety concerns and issues in the workplace,” she says.

“In a lot of workplaces, the minute you start to bring up anything about health and safety, you’re targeted. It’s a stigma.”

"I’m hoping we can do something to improve the stigma around being able to speak up when you do have concerns, and that when you do speak up, those concerns will be heard and supervisors and managers will actually like and appreciate [it]. I think that’s changing, but I think there’s still a lot of work to be done,” says Lyon-Bartley.

2022 Trends

COVID-19 has underscored the importance of having an organizational culture where people feel comfortable enough to speak up:

“You really want the workplace to be the first place that those issues can be brought up,” she says.

Speaking about her organization, Lyon-Bartley says “we try very hard to do what’s right for the employees and really look after their health and safety in our workplaces. And also, on behalf of the clients and customers that we serve, we also help to make those workplaces safer on the whole with the services that we provide.”

And COVID has also impacted a number of other workplace issues.

Mental health has improved in the workplace, she says, and improvements will hopefully continue for the foreseeable future.

“One thing we’ve learned is that we are resilient, we can adapt quickly when and if we need to. So many organizations had to pivot so quickly and change the way that work happened in a lot of places.

And it keeps changing, and somehow we keep adapting. And although it’s not easy, there’s definitely going to be struggle and stress along the way, one thing I’ve learned from [COVID] is that people and organizations can be resilient – more so than we probably thought we could have in the past,” says Lyon-Bartley.

Another thing to look out for in 2022 is more scrutiny “on infection prevention and control, and this whole idea around having healthy workplaces and healthy spaces,” she says.

She says that employers are going to develop a more holistic approach to the workplace, looking at both physical and mental health:

“I think that’s something that health and safety professionals might not have always been completely tapped into, but might be something that I think will pick up a bit more.”