CEOs put construction safety above all: group

David Whalen
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As the CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association (NLCSA), it's safe to say Jackie Manuel understands workplace safety.

In the last five years, the accident rate in the province's construction industry has been cut in half. In real terms, that translates to 1,000 averted workplace injuries.

Jackie Manuel (left) of the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association receives a certificate acknowledging her signing of the CEO Charter from WHSCC CEO Leslie Galway at a gala dinner Thursday night at the Fairmont hotel. At far right is M

As the CEO of the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association (NLCSA), it's safe to say Jackie Manuel understands workplace safety.

In the last five years, the accident rate in the province's construction industry has been cut in half. In real terms, that translates to 1,000 averted workplace injuries.

The NLCSA was instrumental in lobbying the provincial government to implement safe-to-return legislation in the construction industry, the first of its kind in Canada.

Workplace accidents in the construction industry are still slightly above the provincial average, but there's been a sea change since the NLCSA was formed 11 years ago.

"We're certainly very proud of the progress we've made," Manuel said. "If you were to roll the clock back 10 or 11 years, we were probably three or four times what the provincial average was."

Manuel was one of 21 CEOs from around the province who signed the second annual Workplace Health, Safety, and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) CEO Leadership Charter at a ceremony held Thursday night at the Fairmont Newfoundland hotel in St. John's.

Last year, 30 CEOs signed the first charter. The project is the brainchild of former WHSCC CEO Joe O'Neill, who got the idea after seeing a presentation by Duncan Hawthorne of the Ontario nuclear power company Bruce Power on the importance of elevating workplace health and safety.

Since it was formed, over 37,000 construction workers in the province have participated in NLCSA's training programs.

Manuel said the benefits of workplace safety take many forms. Reductions in workplace accidents save employers money and help maintain a positive working environment.

"With all the talk of people going to Alberta, I've often said to our members, 'if you want to keep your workers, keep them safe, for starters,' Manuel said.

Leslie Galway, the CEO of WHSCC, noted that since 2001, Newfoundland and Labrador has risen from eighth in the country in terms of workplace safety to third. However, she said there's always room for improvement.

In 2007, there were seven workplace fatalities and 16 deaths due to occupational disease in the province.

"Every workplace fatality is one too many," Galway said.

Provincial Labour and Employment Minister Shawn Skinner said the province's CEOs are blazing a new trail in terms of workplace safety.

"The fact that we're here tonight tells me we're making progress," he said.

david_whalen@hotmail.com

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association, WHSCC, Compensation Commission Fairmont Newfoundland hotel Bruce Power

Geographic location: Canada, St. John's, Ontario Alberta Newfoundland and Labrador

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