As an Occupational Health and Safety Consultant, Tennille Corbett has become fairly skilled at predicting which staff member will either get hurt or hurt someone else on the job.

“When we are doing training sessions, we can see who is preoccupied or not paying enough attention and they are likely the people who need the training most,” she explains. “It’s almost like we are viewing it from 10,000 feet. We can see how everything will play out.”

Corbett, Ian Orosz and Anne Parker along with 17 other colleagues, provide safety training, education and consultation within Saskatoon Health Region and provide support to the Region’s 31 occupational health committees. “Our role is to assist occupational health committees when concerns are brought to them, when they conduct investigations and do inspections, and in interpreting the legislation,” explains Orosz. “We help guide them on how to address the issues, and give them suggestions or recommendations.”

In addition to the safety training and education pieces, the team also works closely with managers to review incident reports. “We provide feedback and guidance to managers on what they should be doing to meet safety legislation,” explains Orosz. “Shoulder and back injuries are the most prevalent worker injuries in health care and we are mandated by the Ministry (of Health) to dig down and look for those root causes.” Last year alone, there were over 500 shoulder and back injuries in health-care workers across Saskatchewan.

“We have more than 13 000 people in this organization with good intentions,” says Corbett. “We know that no one wants to come to work and get injured, but we also recognize that it can be really hard to keep safety in the forefront. We all are accountable to work safely and to be brave enough to recognize when something isn’t safe, so that we can create the dialogue around it and take proactive action.”

For Parker, as a Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE), coming into the OH&S department gave her a totally different perspective on the role of OH&S in the Region. “When I was working on a unit, I would have never presumed that our Region had such a supportive team to assist and guide departments, units and facilities with the many day to day concerns and challenges we all face.” she says. “Our role is not intended to ‘police’ safety, but to provide a support structure to ensure that managers and employees have safe processes in their departments so we can all come into work healthy and safe and then go home the same way at the end of our day.”

 Tennille Corbett (left) and Ian Orosz are among a team of OH&S staff who work with employees in the Region to keep everyone safe.

Tennille Corbett (left) and Ian Orosz are among a team of OH&S staff who work with employees in the Region to keep everyone safe.

Part of ensuring that safety processes are in place, is the work the OH&S department is doing around department safety profiles. In 2011, OH&S developed department safety profiles to replace department safety plans. Every manager performed a hazard assessment of their work and their tasks and then filled out an action plan for eliminating or minimizing risk.

Over the last two years, OH&S learned a lot about what went well and what could be improved with the department safety profile action plans. “We know that the process isn’t cookie cutter for every manager and we recognize those issues,” she says. “In July, we are rolling out phase one of the new department safety profile and we’ve really honed it to fill any gaps and make it simple for managers to fill out and communicate to their staff. We believe it is a manageable document that will focus on three specific safety management elements – management and leadership; training and communication; and inspection and incident investigation.”

“Staff should definitely be helping their manager fill out the department safety profile for their department or unit,” says Corbett. “They are the experts in their own work and they understand what issues and concerns exist.”

In fact, staff have a huge role in developing a safety culture and according to Parker, helping staff keep one another safe is one of the best parts of the job. “Unfortunately, Saskatchewan is ranked the second highest in the country when it comes to workplace injuries,” explains Parker. “Our colleagues and our employees are important, their safety is important and they need to know that.” Orosz adds, “Staff have the right to say ‘no’ to an unsafe workplace, because safety truly is everyone’s responsibility.”