Sheila Moir of the BC Federation of Labour told attendees at the seventh annual Upper Island Safety Conference that psychological violence needs to start being addressed as seriously as physical hazards.

Conference ‘re-energizes’ workplace safety personnel

According to WorkSafe BC, 2.6 million days of work were lost throughout the province in 2014 (the most recent year for which data is available), representing 146,814 reported on-the-job injuries. Since many people spend a third of their lives – or more – at work, you could say that getting people to think a little more about workplace safety is pretty important.

Well, this week saw the Strathcona Regional District host about 230 people from all over Vancouver Island for the seventh annual Upper Island Safety Conference at the Campbell River Sportsplex. SRD Manager of Programs Susan Bullock says the conference is not only a good chance for local people in safety roles with their organizations to get training, but to get “re-energized” about safety in general.

“All safety committees are required to have eight hours of training, so this meets that requirement – and then some,” Bullock says, “because it’s 16 hours or training over the two days. But the whole idea of the conference, really, is to get people motivated to think about safety, finding new ways to implement things and maybe hear about some things they hadn’t necessarily thought about before.”

The annual conference was packed with two days of educational and informational sessions from experts in various facets of safety, such as Sheila Moir’s presentation about workplace violence held Monday afternoon.

Moir is a safety coordinator and educator with the BC Federation of Labour and she was addressing a large crowd in the Sportsplex gymnasium. She wanted to get them to, amongst other things, know the regulations and legislation that covers workplace violence as well as recognize that violence doesn’t have to be physical in nature.

“When we talk about injury, we typically think about physical injury,” Moir told the crowd, “but we need to start thinking about psychological injury more. We’re talking more and more about the importance of psychologically-safe workplaces.”

The way to have those psychologically-safe workplaces, Moir says, is to address and remove emotional and psychological violence from those workplaces.

It helped, Moir says, when in November of 2013, all employers were forced to have bullying and harassment policies and procedures put in place, “but I can tell you, bullying and harassment are still alive and well,” Moir says. “We have to, as a society, start thinking of workplace harassment and bullying, Moir says, “as a hazard just like anything else.”

Other sessions at the conference included workshops on social media use, changes to the Workers Compensation Act, creating a positive and productive workplace and understanding and preventing stress.

There was also a “trade show” aspect, where sponsors of the event set up booths full of safety equipment or introduced their organizations to those in attendance and a two-day “Post-Conference Workshop”  for attendees in management and supervisor positions.

Admission to the conference began at $235 for those who registered before the first deadline, which Bullock says is a heck of a deal when you consider that you could attend a similar event in Vancouver for upwards of $600 plus the cost of travel and accommodation.