THUNDER BAY - There are numerous reasons why an individual may be forced to miss work, from injuries to sickness, but one reason that is often overlooked should be embraced in order to recognize that it exists.
“If you stuffer from a fall, you can’t go back to work for a while, mental health is one of the leading causes of lost money in the workplace because people try to function when their mental health isn’t well,” said mental health advocate and motivational speaker, Big Daddy Tazz. “When you do that while operating heavy machinery somebody’s life is in danger.”
Mental health in the workplace was one of the key topics discussed during the inaugural Thunder Bay Health and Safety Conference hosted by Workplace Safety North and Public Services Health and Safety Association.
The two day conference opened on Wednesday at the Valhalla Inn and features several breakout sessions about how to create safer work environments and safer communities.
“We really want folks, when they are coming to an event like this, to keep the safety of their employees at the forefront and thinking about the whole perspective,” said Chris Serratore, director of prevention services with Workplace Safety North. “Your employees are your most important resources.”
Serratore said he was expecting more than 150 people to attend the conference from a wide cross section of employers from Thunder Bay and across the region.
The conference comes just days after the International Day of Mourning to honour those who have been injured or killed in workplace accidents.
In 2017, more than 950 people were killed on the job in Canada. Serratore said when looking backward, there are fewer workplace related fatalities and less time lost due to injuries.
“We are moving the bar a little bit, but we still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “The way to get there is to make sure people continue to receive that kind of messaging in the workplace, they support their workforce, make sure they are providing that education for them, and accepting that if people have something to say, if they have an opinion, they are listening to it, because it really has to be worker driven to improve things.”
Serratore also sees mental health as an emerging issue in the workplace and he believes things have improved in terms of services offered to employees.
“There is a progression now and employers are willing to have those conversations and to have that environment within their workplaces, but there is still work to be done,” he said. “It’s to make sure we keep reinforcing those messages and keep it at the forefront so gradually it will become more and more easy for people to have those conversations.”
Big Daddy Tazz provided the keynote address to kick off the conference and his talk focused on ending the stigma attached to mental health to allow people to seek out the help they need.
And that starts with having those conversations in the workplace, Tazz added, because the line between offering someone help and invaded their privacy isn’t as thick as many people believe it to be.
“The problem with the world today is we try to draw such a thick line between being a nosy nelly and caring,” he said. “That line should be very thin. It’s way better to lose a friendship than lose a friend, so even if a friend gets upset with you for prying, but if it saves their life or helps them through their time, then it’s well worth it.”