5 Questions: President and CEO of WorkSafeBC Anne Naser talks about moving forward after a difficult couple of years

Naser shares her ideas on what employers can do to reduce injury on the job.

WorkSafeBC's Anne Naser

Credit: WorkSafeBC

Naser shares her ideas on what employers can do to reduce injury on the job

1. How challenging has the pandemic been for WorkSafe?

Saying it was “challenging” would be an understatement. I was in the CEO role for less than a year when the pandemic forced businesses across B.C. to shut down. There was no precedent or guide for what we had to do. It meant developing a COVID-19 safety plan framework, industry-specific protocols and a suite of resources for employers and workers.

At the same time, we had to develop measures to support employers in any way we could. This included figuring out how we could provide flexibility and deferrals on premium payments, as well as taking the time to educate and consult with any employer who was struggling with workplace transmissions or who needed guidance on their COVID-19 safety plan.

2. How has it changed the organization going forward?

It forced every employer to increase their focus on workplace health and safety—and we’re working to leverage that into a stronger health and safety culture in B.C.

COVID-19 also reinforced the importance of collaborating with employers, organized labour, health and safety associations, government agencies and other stakeholders toward a common goal.

The pandemic also drove a significant operational change, as we adopted a hybrid work model for our staff. We’ve decided this is something that benefits both our workforce and those we serve.

3. Speaking of which—as an overseer of other workplaces, it must be important to make WorkSafe a good place to work. How would you describe the organization’s culture?

The heart of our culture—our reason for being—is to make a difference. It’s at the core of everything we do.

We have good, smart, dedicated people who work here—and we want to keep them. That’s why people and culture are strategic priorities.

We are striving to ensure a healthy and safe workplace, both physically and psychologically. And we also want to ensure equity, diversity and inclusion in our organization—which is vital for attracting and retaining employees, but, most importantly, it is the right thing to do.

Finally, it means fostering an engaged workforce, which is so important in a hybrid work model. We want our staff to continue to feel connected to WorkSafeBC and to each other.

4. What are the biggest challenges facing B.C.’s workers right now?

Workers are still getting injured on the job. Last year, we lost 161 workers to workplace injury and disease. Our focus will continue to be on preventing injuries and illness in the workplace.

We’re also seeing increased attention on psychological safety in workplaces. Employers need to make every effort to create safe, inclusive spaces. The more perspectives and diversity you have at the table, the better.

Finally, it goes without saying that we are also in an era of profound change when it comes to the nature of work and the gig economy, which is transforming our traditional understandings of work and working relationships.

5. Is there any single thing employers can do to reduce injury on the job that they might not think of?

They can make a concerted effort, every day, to foster a workplace culture that values health and safety. Workplaces that consistently demonstrate a commitment to health and safety see improvements in all business areas—including higher morale, improved productivity and better retention of employees. It also increases trust in management.

Building a safety culture has a ripple effect. Each conversation, each act of leadership, every time workers and employers share and discuss health and safety plans—that all leads to a significant difference in preventing workplace injuries and illnesses.

However, while employers need to take ownership of health and safety issues, they must consistently involve their workers in the process.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Hobbies: Trying new recipes!

Book recommendation: Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander

Favourite movie/TV show/podcast: Borgen

Most memorable concert: Coldplay

Guilty pleasure: French fries

Pet peeve: Being late