Nestled in the meadows at the base of North Mountain in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia, you’ll find the Annapolis County Municipal Housing Corporation (ACMHC). From this idyllic setting, a group of professionals led by Joyce d’Entremont, CEO, ACMHC, are walking the walk when it comes to improving workplace safety outcomes in the residential care industry.
While the wellbeing of residents is the central pillar of the organization’s mandate, Joyce believes safety is a two-way street that must extend to both residents and staff. “We care about our staff and would never want to see harm come to them from something that could have been avoided,” Joyce says. “This is an important priority for us.
"This journey toward working safer started two years ago when Julie Hannam, Director of Supports Services, was appointed to the role of Safety Officer and Joyce was appointed CEO. “We had concerns over the increase in workplace injuries,” Joyce explains, “We started with a gap analysis, increased education for Julie and stepped up our safety leadership in general.”
As their knowledge base grew, Joyce says she and Julie became more aware of issues that could no longer be ignored. Making safety a priority, Joyce signed on to the Nova Scotia CEO Safety Charter in February 2016. At the same time, Julie worked to develop a safety program to address hazards in the workplace.
"Each day, myself along with some of my leadership team speak with staff and residents about safety and care issues,” Joyce says. Issues can range from implementing lighting systems and fixing potholes, to providing training and enforcing proper use of staff equipment. Importantly, they all directly impact the wellbeing of residents and staff alike.
In addition to working with WCB, Joyce and Julie receive support from the Office of the Fire Marshall. Together, they helped update the Fire and Emergency plans. “We didn’t have any written policies and procedures to follow,” says Scott Miller, who works in the laundry department. “Now that we have these, we can do our work safer.”
A large focus for employees is safe lifting. To diminish risks for both employees and residents, the ACMHC has developed a Safe Lift and Transfer Policy that is regularly audited to ensure compliance.
As for what’s next, both Julie and Joyce look forward to implementing Universal Codes and Return-to-Work Programs for injured workers. Funding will also go to purchasing more equipment – Joyce emphasizes lifts specifically – and more educational training so staff not only have the knowledge, but the means to get work done safely.