Indexing Ontario’s Workplaces – Are they safe and healthy?

Written by: Sam Hancock

Until recently, there hasn’t been a single measure to determine the health and safety of Ontario’s workplaces, and if they are getting any safer year-to-year.

With the new Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Health and Safety Index (HSI) – a first in North America – this information will be readily available each year starting in 2018. The HSI will reflect Ontario’s health and safety performance in one integrated, evidence-based, composite measure.

Based on a set of five components, the Health and Safety Index measures how safe Ontario’s workplaces are, if their safety record is improving and where efforts need to be focused to increase worker safety across the province.

HSI graphic.jpg

The index looks at Ontario’s workplaces overall versus individual locations. The five evidence-based components are:

  1. Prevention – what is being done to avoid risks?
  2. Worker Empowerment – how involved are employees in health and safety at work?
  3. Workplace Culture – what do employees think of health and safety priorities at work?
  4. Enforcement – fines or convictions for poor health and safety practices?
  5. Injuries – the frequency and severity of workplace injuries, and how long it takes people to return to work.

These components are weighted in relation to the other components, then totaled to reach the single index measure that has been designed to offer a more complete and sophisticated picture of progress on occupational health and safety. Data gathered from April 2017 will set the baseline, with the overall measure report being published annually starting in summer 2018.
The objectives of the HSI, aside from measuring the safety of Ontario’s workplaces, include:

  • promoting awareness of workplace health and safety in Ontario,
  • calling on stakeholders to help improve the system’s performance, and
  • starting a productive dialogue about health and safety among stakeholders.

Here’s a handy video from the WSIB explaining how the new index will work:

“Everyone in Ontario has an interest in making workplaces as healthy and safe as possible,” said Tom Teahen, WSIB President and CEO, in a June 2017 news release. “The Health and Safety Index will give an overall view of Ontario’s workplaces so that we know what’s working well, and what needs to work better.”

As the first of its kind, the Index was created so that it can be easily adapted by other workers’ compensation boards across Canada, making it a pan-Canadian effort.

Learn more about how the index works here: WSIB news release


To Remember

Written by: Sam Hancock

Remembrance Day takes place on November 11 every year, when we take a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. This was originally done to honour the end of the “war to end all wars”, World War I. Unfortunately, peace didn’t last, and World War II was fought, followed by several international conflicts since.

Originally called Armistice Day to celebrate the official end of World War I on November 11, 1918 at 11:00 a.m., Remembrance Day has become a day to honour all those who have fought and those who continue to fight for freedom across the world.

A common concern as the generations who fought pass away is “what will Remembrance Day mean for our children?” Yet, in a recent Global News poll, millennials have been leading a resurgence in Remembrance Day ceremonies. (Source:

Encouraging news, because today more than ever, it seems we need to be reminded that the two greatest conflicts of the early half of the last century were fought to stop fascists, Nazis and other tyrannical despots from curtailing the freedoms of various cultures, religions and nations.

We asked ECOH staff to share why they celebrate Remembrance Day. Here are four stories…

My Grandpa.jpg

For Charlene McManus, Remembrance Day is a time to cherish how the McManus clan got their start. Her grandfather Charles (Charlie) McManus served during World War 2. He signed up with his brother Jack at the Elora Catholic Church along with other locals who were enlisting to fight for Canada and England. While Jack served in the Navy, Charlie was stationed as a cook in England when he met his wife Alice. She was serving as a radar detector for the Scotland Army. Romance can bloom anywhere, even during wartime.

Remembrance Day is also a time to cherish family for Rob Lovegrove, who had relatives who served in both World Wars. His grandfather drove tanks in WW1, where he was blinded by a gas attack. Rob’s wife’s great uncle was killed at the age of 17 during the battle of Vimy Ridge. Rob’s other grandfather fought for the British Army in WW2 in North Africa and Italy. Both of Rob’s parents were living in London during WW2 and were forced to evacuate and stay with families in Wales. While these evacuations were meant with good intentions, some of the children sent to live on farms in the country-side were treated as indentured servants. One of Rob’s uncles ran back to London to face the bombs rather than keep living on a farm.

Craig Maunder’s great uncle, Major John Arthur Willis of the Essex Scottish Regiment, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, served our country in WW2. Major Willis died at age 38 during Operation Jubilee (Dieppe Raid). While the raid was an Allied disaster, resulting in the death, wounding or capture of 3,623 Canadian, British and US troops, it is also widely regarded as having identified fundamental flaws in the amphibious invasion tactics of the time.  The lessons learned at Dieppe, while at great cost, are thought to have profoundly shaped the planning of the Normandy invasions and allowed those later invasions to succeed.  “It makes me proud,” says Craig, “to know his sacrifice was not in vain.”

Craig's GP.jpg

My grandfather served in WW2 but never spoke of his experiences overseas. Whatever happened to him, he kept it to himself as if the war never happened. To me, that is why Remembrance Day is so important – to let veterans who served know that while we can’t possibly know what they went through, we value and appreciate the freedoms they fought so valiantly to preserve.

My eight-year old daughter attended her first Remembrance Day parade last year as a Brownie. She is proud to be able to honour her great-grandfather and all the veterans and current members of our armed forces.

Remembrance Day – what does it mean to you?



Safety Posters Through the Ages – A Short History

Written by: Sam Hancock


Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility, but it never hurts to have handy reminders around the job site, whether it’s construction, health care or an office. One of the most effective and convenient ways to communicate workplace safety is with posters.

While we’ve been working since humans first stood upright, the safety poster didn’t enter the workplace until the mid-1800s once the Industrial Revolution was underway. The first World’s Fair in 1851 celebrated the rise of the machine age with exhibits dedicated to innovation and progress at work and at home. With workers migrating from the farm to the factory, labour became more and more reliant on machinery. More machinery meant more accidents.


As the Industrial Revolution got into full swing, the issue of worker safety quickly followed.  Early posters relied heavily on text, and often focused on rules of behavior in the workplace, including union meetings, breaks and smoking rather than safety procedures.

However, most workers in the Industrial Revolution came from the lower classes, and at that time had a very low literacy rate. Eventually, text-heavy posters made way for visual posters that packed a more emotional punch. Posters often showed the worst-case scenario—electrocution, dismemberment and death —and promoting fear to encourage safety became the standard.


“Open the doors and windows before you start the motor” (1925)



Graphic design has changed over the years. For example, the early 1900s posters depicted workplace dangers as anthropomorphized – carbon monoxide was a large brutish ghost that could choke a man. Safety posters inspired fear with realistic-looking violent monsters, devils, and animals. As Cubism, Futurism and the other mid-century -ism movements took centre stage in the art world, danger was now shown as an abstract figure in safety posters, with the emphasis, such as scraps of steel – or swarf – shown as a snarling guard dog, straining at its leash.



Up until World War II, most posters focused on men in the workplace, with women starring in home safety posters and materials. However, once women started playing a bigger role in the workplace in the 1930s and 1940s, they started appearing in more workplace safety posters. “Jenny on the Job” is a series of WW2-era safety posters designed specifically for women working during the war.

In this series, the posters reflect women’s important role during wartime, but only three posters depict actual workplace safety tips. The rest reflect the typical mid-century attitude towards gender roles. The posters make it clear - while it was necessary for women to work, they shouldn’t forget their womanly duties too. They suggested in a very paternalistic manner that despite doing a man’s job, Jenny still needs her beauty sleep, fancy fashions, and a reminder to shower regularly.




Plus, who’s going to clean up that filthy pigsty of a bathroom? Jenny, obviously.


As more and more women entered the workplace after the war, posters continued to reflect a slightly patronizing tone towards women, as exemplified in this image of a women’s long locks getting tangled in a drill press, suggesting that women are more concerned with beauty than safety.




Today’s posters focus on more positive messages – “Wear hard hats in this area” and “Hold the handrail” for example – versus earlier fear-mongering posters that emphasized what could happen should you fail to follow the rules. Not only do they focus on the physical dangers at work, they also shine a spotlight on mental health at work, which is just as important as your physical health.

Who knew health and safety posters at work had such a rich history? The design of these posters reflects the concerns of the era they were created, and are a great way to explore the history of work.


Curiosity piqued? Here are two interesting collections of historical workplace safety posters to peruse:



Happy Diwali

May the joyous celebration
Of this divine festival
Fill your heart with
Never ending joy and happiness!

Happy Diwali from ECOH.


Today is Diwali, a five-day celebration popularly known as the Festival of Lights. Diwali literally means “series of lights.” During Diwali, houses are adorned with candles and colourful lights as people share gifts and recite prayers. Observed by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.

Diwali also coincides with the Hindu New Year, and celebrates the legend of Lord Rama and his wife Sita, who returned to their kingdom after a period of exile following the defeat of the demon king Ravanna. Diwali also pays tribute to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and lanterns are lit to guide her into people's homes to ensure a prosperous year ahead.

It’s a time renewal, with lots of cleaning, renovating, and decorating to spruce up the home. During Diwali, everyone dresses up in new clothes, and they light lamps and candles inside and outside their home. Families and friends also get together to pray, feast and watch fireworks.

Diwali runs for five days, with the main celebrations happening on the third and fourth day:

  1. Dhanteras: On the first day of Diwali, people consider it auspicious to clean the home.
  2. Naraka Chaturdasi or Chhoti Diwali: On the second day, people decorate their homes with lamps and create design patterns called rangoli on the floor using colored powders or sand.
  3. Amavasya: The third day is the main festival day. Families gather together for Lakshmi puja, a prayer to Goddess Lakshmi followed by feasts and firework festivities.
  4. The fourth day: This day has various meanings in different parts of India. It is the first day of the new year when friends and relatives visit with gifts and best wishes for the season.
  5. Bhai Dooj: The final day sees brothers visiting their married sisters, who greet them with love and a lavish meal.

If you are a guest at a Diwali party, consider bringing a “Shubh”, or auspicious gift for your hosts. This can be sweets, dried fruits, nuts, or something for the home, like candles. An auspicious and traditional gift shows your authenticity and sincerity.

May the warmth, hospitality and happiness you experience during Diwali strengthen your families, your friendships and your communities. Please accept ECOH’s best wishes for a meaningful and joyous celebration.