February 21, 2018 / By Wouter van Halderen

The Faces Behind the Numbers

As a part of the CEA Occupational Health and Safety program, CEA collects yearly data on workplace injuries. This data provides broad insights on how the industry fares overall, how well we do against other industries, and how well our individual members do against each other. And we use that data to continuously improve.

As the Manager of Safety & Standards at the Canadian Electricity Association, it has been my job to work with the OHS committee to reduce workplace injuries. It has been my job, to fund, develop and implement standards that refine and streamline work methods and best practices. It has been my job, to organize meetings, to support the committee members and to write minutes. This has been my job for years – until I realized that wasn’t my job at all.

This revelation hit me last year at CEA’s first Safety Symposium when one of our members shared a video about a workplace injury. It wasn’t the first time I had seen reports on injuries, which often function as a learning moment for others. This case was a voltage incident which although rare, can be the deadliest kind of accident in our industry.

While the worker in question was hurt quite severely, he walked away from the incident and had the chance to go home to his family. He did so because he had the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), because the proper emergency procedures were in place and because everyone knew what they were supposed to do and how they were supposed to do it.

But that was not what this video was about. It was about him going home to his family. And it made me realize what my job was about.

It made me realize that I might get paid to attend week-long standards meetings to define which work methods are best suited to the electricity industry, but my job is to make sure every worker makes it to next year’s week at the cottage. I might get paid to pour over our safety statistics and see where we can improve, but my job is to make sure every worker makes it home to help with their kid’s math homework. I might get paid to organize and facilitate meetings, but it is my job to make sure no worker misses any of life’s important events.

My job is about so much more than data. My job is to make sure these numbers drive us to do better. To continuously push, refine and improve. And most importantly, to make sure we don’t ever have to call a family to tell them one of our workers isn’t coming home.

Overall, we have seen improvements in our safety statistics. We know our work has a lasting effect on the well-being of electricity workers in Canada. This is an accomplishment we are incredibly proud of. Although there are still improvements to be made and there is still work to do, I know what my job is. And I know myself and the Occupational Health and Safety committee will always be fully committed to bringing our workers home safely.