Saskatchewan safety information at users’ fingertips

Journal of Commerce | TECHNOLOGY  | by RUSSELL HIXSON | 

Safety information is now just a swipe away for workers in Saskatchewan.

At more than 500 pages, the OH&S Regulations and Saskatchewan Employment Act is a daunting document to wade through while on a jobsite or even carry around.

The Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association (SCSA) decided to tackle the challenge of making this crucial information more accessible and understandable. So they decided to develop an app for smartphones and tablets.

“We have workers, supervisors and other managers required to adhere to the act and understand what parts apply to the construction sector,” said Collin Pullar, SCSA president. “We felt that there was a need for a quick reference tool that focused on some of the most common issues in construction safety with direct reference to the regulations and act.”

Pullar said the SCSA wanted the tool to contain brief, plain language summaries and links to additional resources along with training that employers and workers could benefit from and access from anywhere.

The app was developed in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and contains both a web-based version and a mobile application.

“(CCOHS) really put together the technical aspects of this and we worked with them on the content,” said Pullar. “They were great partners and for them construction is one of their top strategic areas so it was a great partnership.”

Currently the app has 20 common topics, like asbestos, confined spaces, ladders and roofing. Each topic then has an easy-to-understand summary and the actual text of legislation that applies to the topic. Users can also access resources related to the topic, like toolbox talks, safety tips and extra information from the province or other organizations.

“It has plain language to get through all the legalese,” said Pullar.

He added the guide will help Saskatchewan employers and employees understand and comply with the legislative obligations within their workplaces. Each of the 20 topics includes an easy-to-read summary and related resources such as hazard alerts and safety talks.

The costs for violating the act can be high. According to the SCSA, in the 2016-2017 fiscal year there were 38 prosecutions initiated, resulting in 25 OH&S convictions in Saskatchewan. Total penalties for the year were just under $1 million.

Pullar said the app took about a year to develop and has been out for a few weeks.

But building it was just the beginning. Pullar said they are working on adding more topics and even new features like push notifications for things like weather advisories. Pullar said he has other secret features he and his team plan to explore and rollout in the coming months.

“Now that the foundation is built, we are looking to add to it,” Pullar said.

The app has also garnered attention from other industries interested in its potential. Pullar said that those in industries with overlapping safety concerns, such as manufacturing, oil, gas and hospitality have be curious about using the app as well.

The app is free to download. Users can search for it by typing in SCSA OHS.