Despite all policies and personal protective equipment available in the workplace, injuries are still happening to employees – and employers are taking the hit too. Workplace injuries cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars a year.
An Integrated Worksite Health & Safety program taught by Dr. Delia Roberts at Selkirk College in Castlegar, British Columbia offers an innovative learning experience for industry professionals seeking out the missing link between health, wellness and safety on and off the job.
Dr. Roberts holds a PhD in Medical Science and a Fellowship in the American College of Sports Medicine. She began her career in Sports Science, working with Canadian Olympic medalists from 1984 until she moved to Selkirk College in 1998. Since that time she has been applying sport science techniques to occupational injury prevention and performance enhancement. The exceptional effectiveness of her programs have won international acclaim.
“For safety professionals, this course adds a different dimension,” says student Peter Koch. “If you are frustrated by trying to reduce injury through policy and procedure, while seeing you still have injuries, this is one of the missing pieces.”
Koch is a safety management consultant with Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company (MEMIC), a private mutual insurance company and leader in injury prevention centered on the east coast of the United States. He works with ski resorts and other hospitality businesses to help them identify and control risks and hazards that could cause injuries to their employees.
“I became very interested in the work Delia was doing after reading the studies from her Fit to Snow program. The program addresses workplace safety by helping resort employees to be physically prepared for the hazards they have to work around. Because there is little else that a ski area can do to control he hazards a skier or rider may encounter, this program can be the missing link for workplace injury prevention,” he says. “Delia’s program focuses on preparing the person through great information on how to physically and mentally prepare for the job and helping employers see the importance of that preparation.”
Roberts has always been interested in how the human body adapts to physical work. During her Masters and PhD studies, she worked with some of Canada’s top athletes and today, she brings that sports science techniques and knowledge into developing worksite health and safety programs.
In the Business of Safety
Gerard Messier has also made safety his career and today, works as manager of project development at the BC Forest Safety Council in Nanaimo. He completed the IWHS certification in 2015 to enhance his expertise.
“On a personal level, when I worked as a professional forester, I saw and investigated many fatalities which motivates me to learn all I can to improve the industry’s safety record and reduce the frequency of injuries,” he says.
Roberts has worked with forest companies in the past to develop well-received programs like Fit to Plant for tree planters and Fit to Drive aimed at reducing accidents among trucking industry professionals.
“We started working with Delia to develop a nutrition, hydration and safety movement program called Fit to Log which was aimed at active forestry workers like tree fallers, field engineers and cable yarding crews,” says Messier. “As the program was developed, we realized that we needed to train some of our Council staff to deliver Fit to Log presentations and workshops. The IWHS certification was a great fit to give our staff the background knowledge needed to confidently and correctly deliver this training to forest companies.”
Employees an Asset Worth Protecting
Ashley Ryland, the Employee Health & Wellness Coordinator at Taos Ski Valley in northern New Mexico just completed the IWHS certification. On the ski hill in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Robert’s Fit for Snow is utilized and Ryland’s recent learning helps sustain this practice, important because Taos Ski Valley sees their employees as their greatest asset.
“Employees that are incredibly talented and loyal are really difficult to replace,” she says. “In the skiing industry and here at TSV, we see a high number of on-hill accidents and injuries – both occupational and non-occupational. We want our employees to be as healthy and safe as possible, both at work and in their free time so they can enjoy life and work. We also don’t want our employees to experience the financial and physical burden of an injury.”
Ryland also handles a portion of Workers’ Compensation at Taos Ski Valley. She found the three-module, nine-month online course of study inspirational.
“Every class there was something I was able to take away and apply it to some aspect of my organization. Whether a tip, a scientific explanation or an idea I get through the discussion, I always come away with something I can use at Taos Ski Valley,” Ryland says. “Delia is a phenomenal teacher. She makes even the most complex ideas, concepts, functions and processes easy to understand. Her classes have so many practical aspects to them, which allows one to take what they are learning and apply it directly to staff.”
Knowledge is Power and a Better Bottom Line
The IWHS certification at Selkirk College helps those in the industry, Human Resource and Health and Safety personnel learn about how health and safety programs in the workplace can provide cost savings and improved employee morale. As well, Roberts teaches about physical activity and movement science along with evidence that timing and nature of food intake has a significant impact on performance of physical and mental tasks.
Messier says a better knowledge of how nutrition, hydration and fitness is important in the forestry industry.
“Quite often when we’re investigating incidents we often wonder how an experienced worker could make a serious error in judgment. I believe that often it is poor nutrition, hydration or fatigue that is causing these unexplained lapses in judgment,” he says.
Koch has also just wrapped up his nine-month course and already he sees the knowledge he’s gained as an incredible asset.
“I can speak accurately about preparing employees, beyond traditional workplace training, for the risks they will encounter. Delia’s class outlines a scientific approach to workplace injury prevention,” says Koch. “I can speak more accurately to those concepts of injury prevention through physical preparation, which is something I really feel we’ve lost in our current world… Often people in physically demanding jobs tend to utilize their job to maintain their fitness instead of preparing for the job to a particular level of performance.”
Messier also sees Robert’s coaching as an asset in a world where people are constantly bombarded by information that may not be backed by science.
“The public is overwhelmed with the latest study on this or that and they get led down the unhealthy paths of fad diets. This training allowed us to develop and practice critical thinking and be able to identify the credible and reliable health related data that we can then go onto share with industry,” he says.
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