Safety Equals Success

It was an ordinary day in manufacturing. There was product being printed and work being made ready for customers in finishing. It wasn’t until an employee walked outside near shipping and receiving did the day become extraordinary.  There, on the ground in the snow, a truck driver was lying outside of his cab having a medical emergency. When the employee found the driver, he ran back inside to call 911, at which point a bindery operator (who had never been trained in CPR but knew he had to do something), ran to help the unconscious, non-breathing victim. With the help of the 911 dispatch operator he performed CPR. The operator was able to coach him over the phone, “push hard and push fast in the centre of the chest” and he bravely followed the instructions. It wasn’t long before the emergency response team arrived and took over, at which time they were able to revive the victim and save his life. If it weren’t for the fast-thinking and courageous acts of the manufacturing team, there would have been one less person in the world that day.

This is a true story that happened when I worked for a former employer and it’s something that could have easily happened at any company, anywhere in the world. This story is not meant to instill fear, but inspire action to prepare for “what-if” scenarios. I admit that safety isn’t the sexiest topic, but it’s one that should be given the time and care it deserves so that everyone feels safe at work and this article is a great place to start. Here, you will get a high-level overview of safety in a print shop and we’ll start by building a solid foundation of the safety rules and regulations in this province. This article is also a great place to make yourself look like a star in your next meeting, as I’ll outline simple, actionable takeaways that can make all the difference when it comes to making your company a safer place to work. There is concrete evidence that a safer workplace can translate into better quality products, a more productive workforce, and a more profitable company overall.  Today is the day to start!

Building a Solid H&S Knowledge Foundation: What You Need to Know

Foundational health and safety information is critically important for both upper level management and line managers in the printing industry. There is A LOT of information available through the Government of Ontario’s websites and not all of it is easy to find or easy to understand. My goal in this section is to demystify the most important information around key organizations, terminology, and training requirements.

OHSA  (Occupational Health and Safety Act) – This is the primary legislation that keeps workers safe in Ontario. The act outlines responsibilities of all individuals in the workplace, establishes procedures for dealing with hazards, and provides enforcement where there is non-compliance. Non-compliance is against the law.

IRS (Internal Responsibility System) – A system that provides each person in an organization with direct responsibility for health and safety. It is an essential component of the OHSA and establishing an organizational culture of safety.

JHSC (Joint Health and Safety Committee) – A committee made up of both worker and management representatives that is mandatory for companies with twenty or more workers employed, as outlined in the OHSA. The committee is responsible for monitoring health and safety, identifying hazards, recommending health and safety improvements, and investigating injuries.

MOL (Ministry of Labour) – The provincial government ministry that oversees health and safety as outlined in the OHSA.

WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) – An independent trust agency that administers compensation and no-fault insurance to Ontario workplaces. Most businesses that employ workers must register with the WSIB within ten days of hiring their first full-time or part-time worker. In addition to handling claims, the WSIB mandates preventative first aid and CPR training, as well as regulated first aid kits in order to comply with their requirements.

Health & Safety Training Requirements in Ontario

The chart below outlines the training required by both the OHSA and the WSIB, as well as how many individuals must be trained to be in compliance. It’s important to note that the OHSA specifies training requirements based on the number of employees in the organization, whereas the WSIB specifies training requirements based on the number of employees on any one shift. (Therefore, companies with more than one shift require at least one first aid and CPR-certified worker on each shift.)


Training Requirements Outlined by the OHSA and WSIB








Part One: Basic Certification

Part Two: Workplace-Specific Hazard Training

Additional Hazard Training

First Aid & CPR Training

1 to 5 workers




At least 1 employee with an Emergency First Aid & CPR certificate (1-day course)

6 to 19 workers




At least 1 employee with a Standard First Aid & CPR certificate (2-day course)

20 to 49 workers

At least 2 members of the JHSC (one worker and one management representative)

At least 2 members of the JHSC (one worker and one management representative)

All workers affected by specific hazards (as determined in Part Two)

At least 1 employee with a Standard First Aid & CPR certificate (2-day course)

50 or more workers

At least 2 members of the JHSC (one worker and one management representative)

At least 2 members of the JHSC (one worker and one management representative)

All workers affected by specific hazards (as determined in Part Two)

At least 1 employee with a Standard First Aid & CPR certificate (2-day course)


The OHSA’s Part One: Basic Certification is general in nature and covers health and safety law, hazard identification and control, investigation techniques, and prevention resources.

The OHSA’s Part Two: Workplace-Specific Hazard Training is much more focused in nature and narrows in on hazards found in the individual company. In order to be certified, employers must conduct a workplace hazard assessment, determine significant hazards, determine training needs, and report these training needs (as well as confirm that this training has been completed) to the MOL.

Possible hazards in the printing industry that may need further training include:

  • Chemical hazards
  • Compressed gasses
  • Confined spaces
  • Electrical hazards
  • Ergonomics
  • Explosives
  • Hand tools
  • Heat and cold stress
  • Indoor air quality
  • Ladders
  • Machine guarding
  • Manual material handling
  • Noise
  • Office hazards
  • Solvents
  • Vehicle driving

Both part one and part two (which includes all additional hazard training) must be completed for an organization to be certified by Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer at the MOL. ­A list of accredited OHSA training providers can be found here:

So what’s the penalty for not complying with the above training requirements or non-compliance with anything outlined in the OHSA? Well, the punishment is relatively severe (as it should be). The maximum penalties include a fine of up to $25,000 for an individual person and/or 12 months imprisonment, as well as a fine of up to $500,000 for a company.  It pays to comply!

Actionable Takeaways You Can Implement Today

Now that you have an understanding of the key safety organizations in our province and the requirements mandated by these organizations, it’s time for simple actions that can make all the difference when it comes to safety. The following information includes practical, easy-to-implement, actionable takeaways that you can bring to your next health and safety meeting. I have subdivided the following information into three categories for creating a culture of safety in your organization: priority, proactivity, and practice. Each idea that has “Today’s the day!” beside it is quick and easy to do. In fact, I challenge you to implement at least one of these ideas before the end of the day.

Make Health & Safety a PRIORITY

Form a solid JHSC. The Joint Health and Safety Committee is required by law to be formed in companies with 20 or more workers. The committee must be made up of at least one employer (management) representative and at least one worker representative if the company employs between 20-49 workers. If there are over 50 employees in a company, the committee must have at least four members. The JHSC team is designed to be diverse and include employees making strategic decisions, as well as employees who are closest to the day-to-day work to promote well-rounded decision making. Even if members of upper management or the executive team are not official members of the JHSC, invite them to every meeting so that they are better informed about safety challenges facing the organization. Getting management involvement in health and safety initiatives is the only way change will truly happen.

Seek employee input. No one knows equipment and processes better than the employees working with them on a daily basis. Seeking employee input (whether through formal or informal means) is not only important to learn about potential hazards, but also to help with employee buy-in when new safety initiatives are rolled out. It’s no secret that people like it their voices to be heard, but it’s also no secret that not all companies listen to their employees.

Report near misses. Prevent accidents before they happen. Put a system in place whereby employees are encouraged (or required) to report accidents that almost happen. This near-miss reporting strategy will help the JHSC and the executive teams identify risky areas, equipment, and processes that can be addressed proactively before someone gets hurt. Keep the reporting simple and integrate it into current systems to encourage participation.

Remove all fear. In order for accidents and near misses to be reported, every employee has to feel comfortable reporting these occurrences without fear of reprimand or fear of losing their job. Trust takes time to develop but it’s an integral part of the health and safety implementation process. In addition to removing all fear through clear communication, the process by which accidents and near misses are reported must be quick and easy, and preferably integrated into existing systems. If reporting feels like an administrative burden, people are less likely to do it.

Do some analysis. Where have the most incidents happened in your facility? Where do the most incidents happen in similar operations? Who do the incidents happen to? Fix the most frequently occurring or highest cost (based on frequency and severity) issues first, in accordance with the Pareto Principle: 80% of issues are caused by 20% of problems. Once the root cause of these vital few 20% are identified and taken care of, the number of incidents should decrease dramatically.

Create safety contracts (Today’s the day!). I recently visited a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with a strong focus on safety. At the entrance to the plant the company has hung a large bulletin board with every employee’s “safety contract” posted. The safety contract includes a short paragraph about daily commitment to safety and a line for the employee to sign the contract. What’s most interesting about this safety initiative is that each employee was asked to bring a photo of his or her loved ones to place on the contract. Everyday when arriving to work, employees are reminded about who they’re coming to work for and why the company’s commitment to safety is so important.

Invest in an AED (Today’s the day!). Automated External Defibrillators are absolutely, positively worth the investment. They can increase the chances of survival of a cardiac event from approximately 5% up to 90%. AEDs are incredibly simple to operate, it only takes a couple of hours to properly train and certify users, and anyone can use it even if they are not certified (as they are protected under Ontario’s “Good Samaritan” laws). Furthermore, Ontario’s Chase McEachern Act of 2007 protects the owner or operator of premises from civil liability where a defibrillator is made available for use and harm or damage occurs from use of the defibrillator. In other words, you are very well protected in the eyes of the law even if something goes wrong. Investing in a defibrillator is similar to investing in insurance: you hope you never have to use it, but you’ll be glad you made the investment if you ever have to use it. Although the average unit cost is still relatively high, you can get a fully equipped model for $1100-$1500. Amortize the cost of the unit over 10 years and that’s only an investment of $110-$150 per year. This cost is negligible relative to the lifesaving benefits.

Outline one safety focus per month. The most at-risk group in the workplace is young employees due to lack of experience and/or lack of proper guidance and training in danger prevention. According to Work Safe BC, the top seven dangers for young workers include lifting objects, working on elevated levels, working with knives, working with hot surfaces or objects, operating motor vehicles, working with food slicers, and working near running equipment or machinery. In the printing industry, six out of seven of these dangers could be an everyday concern. Provide the necessary education and training for these high-risk areas and create monthly education pieces highlighting a variety of different safety topics (first aid, CPR, WHMIS, etc.).


Make 911 cheat sheets (Today’s the day!). If you’ve never seen a 911 cheat sheet before, it is a handy one-page sheet hung beside a phone that is a script for use in an emergency. The script looks something like this: “Do you need fire/police/ambulance? What happened? The company’s address is… The closest major intersection is…”. It’s also wise to include a line at the bottom stating “Do not hang up the phone until 911 hangs up first.“ Whether posted beside the phone or as a small cheat sheet attached to the phone, these scripts help reduce anxiety and improve communication in a stressful situation.


Establish an intercom code (Today’s the day!). In your next JHSC meeting, consider setting up an intercom code to alert all team members when there is a safety or first aid issue that needs their attention. Hospitals and other large organizations have these types of paging systems so that everyone knows what’s going on without the need to broadcast the details of a situation. For example, an announcement of “code white” could mean that all first aiders should immediately go to the specified location to help with an emergency. To be even more prepared in a potentially chaotic emergency situation, consider assigning one or two people to grab the first aid kit and the AED if the code is announced.

Download an important app (Today’s the day!). The Canadian Red Cross recently released an excellent app for both iOS and Android devices. The app is called “First Aid by Canadian Red Cross” and it is a fantastic resource to refresh your memory about important first aid topics. Learning first aid skills is like learning a language: if you’re not using it all the time (and let’s hope you’re not!) you forget. The app is well designed and includes short descriptions of various topics, how-to videos, and quizzes. It’s a great supplement to (but not a replacement for) first aid training.

PRACTICE What You Preach

Act it out. Practice the “what-if” scenarios for all different types of emergencies in the locations they are most likely to happen. Keep everyone informed and refreshed by acting out possible situations in various departments with the employees in those departments. This activity doesn’t have to be overly serious or panic inducing. My first aid trainees often tell me that it’s the practice scenarios that they find most valuable and most fun because I approach it in a light-hearted way, always providing an opportunity for feedback at the end.

Walk around (Today’s the day!). There is no better time than right now to take a walk around your facility and attend to small, but significant, safety issues. See what needs restocking in your first aid kits and order it. Find leaning skids, boxes piled high, materials not put away, and debris in the aisles. Take a few minutes to remedy each of these issues. By demonstrating attention to detail and creating a tidy workspace, employees will be more likely to keep it that way, making the facility safer for everyone.

Focus on continuous improvement. Measure risks on an ongoing basis. Safety preparedness is not a one-time event; it’s based on the concerted effort of every single person in the company on a daily basis. The JHSC must do a site inspection each month, including assessing current risks and ensuring all safety equipment (fire extinguishers, eye wash stations, first aid kits, AEDs, etc.) is functional. Constantly reassessing hazards is an important component of fostering a positive safety culture in your organization.

Praise safe behaviour (Today’s the day!). All too often, unsafe behaviour is reprimanded and safe behaviour goes unnoticed. Acts of safety (whether big or small) should be recognized. Write a good news story and post it on company bulletin boards or in a company newsletter. Reward the individual in front of their team or in front of the whole company as part of an awards ceremony. Whether it’s verbal recognition, an award plaque, gift certificates, or a well-deserved day off, the prize doesn’t matter as much as employees understanding why the person received the recognition and thereby having a model to aspire to.

No hiding. Everyone in the organization (even the CEO) should work on the shop floor for at least a couple of hours each month. This initiative will not only help identify health and safety concerns with fresh eyes, but it may also help everyone in the organization better understand challenges facing various departments and foster a greater sense of community within the company.

Final Thoughts

Although it’s not possible to outline all of the legal requirements for health and safety in this article, my hope is that you now have a more solid foundation from which you can build your understanding. Furthermore, my hope is that the ideas in this article have sparked some new thoughts about what you can do to make health and safety a priority, including actions you can implement today. In fact, I encourage you to make safety more than just a priority in your organization – make it a core value. Fostering a culture of safety involves making it a priority, being proactive, and practicing what you preach with genuine buy-in from all levels of the organization. Health and safety may not be the most glamorous topic, but it is a critically important one to the long-term success of any organization.  


Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.