Being aware of the hazards on the job is how works starts each day at Westmoreland Coal Company in Estevan.
“Safety has to be of the upmost importance,” said General Manager Kraig Wanner.
“We want our employees to go home to their families healthy and ready for work the next day.”
But the end of a shift doesn’t mean an employee suddenly becomes free of all risk. Saskatchewan has the second worst workplace injury rate in Canada. But the province’s off-the-job injury rate is worse. Hazards exist outside the workplace.
What presents a risk? It can be the worker’s drive home. A simple text is sent as a reminder to pick up milk on the way home from the mine. Does the driver reply?
Virginia Tech Transportation Institute research shows that texting while driving can increase your risk of a collision by up to 23 times. SGI says driver distraction and inattention is one of the major contributing factors in fatal collisions in the province.
Saskatchewan workers are twice as likely to be injured after they’re done work. It’s clear Saskatchewan residents need to be aware of hazards and make choices that prevent injuries while at home and in the community.
Plus, it’s not just employees who need to be protected. Those who don’t hold jobs, such as children and elderly residents, need to know how to avoid harm too.
To better protect employees and their families outside of work, Westmoreland Coal Company worked with Safe Saskatchewan to develop a strategy. It is known as the Off-the-Job (OTJ) Health & Safety Strategy, which will be used to focus on injury prevention in the homes of employees and in the Estevan area.
“This OTJ Health & Safety Strategy is the first of its kind in Saskatchewan, if not North America,” said Gord Moker, CEO of Safe Saskatchewan.
“Westmoreland, its employees, and its family members are instrumental in leading the charge in creating it.”
To kick it off this year, Westmoreland Coal Company brought together employees for a special event.
“We had a family fun night for the crews and their families,” said Wanner.
Families were invited to enjoy a meal together. The night extended into learning from emergency responders living and working in Estevan.
The adults in the families learned from local RCMP officers, the fire chief and EMS. Driving while impaired or distracted was discussed. Rules of the road and the importance of pulling over for emergency vehicles were explained.
Fire hazards and the significance of having an escape plan that everyone in a home understands were reviewed.
While the adults refreshed their knowledge, the kids picked up a lot too during a scavenger hunt designed by Safe Saskatchewan.
When they finished it, the children were asked what they learned. Their answers continue to be played on TVs at the mine site to remind their parents of the event and everything that was shared those nights.
The family fun nights are the first of a number of events and resources being developed this year by Westmoreland Coal Company and Safe Saskatchewan to maintain awareness of injury prevention beyond the workplace.
Moker wants more than that company, its employees and the Estevan area to benefit from the strategy.
“Once this final phase is completed with Westmoreland, we will then make the entire framework available to other Charter signatory leaders.”
Westmoreland Coal Company became a signatory of the Saskatchewan Health & Safety Leadership Charter in 2o1o showing its commitment to reducing and eventually eliminating injuries in the province.
When it renewed its commitment to the charter in 2014, it went a step further.
The OTJ Health & Safety Strategy is a demonstration of leadership, which is an expectation of charter members. It is an example that others can follow to benefit workplaces, families and communities across the entire province.