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Literacy's Impact on Workplace Health and Safety

The Conference Board of Canada recently released the report What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You focusing on literacy’s importance to workplace health and safety. The report covers the findings of an online survey completed by employers, labour organizations, individuals in the workforce, and service providers to Aboriginal people and immigrants.

Alison Campbell, author of the report states, “The project’s main objective is to demonstrate the value—including direct and indirect benefits—of investment in literacy with the expected outcome of achieving higher levels of health and safety in the workplace.”

As part of the study, 10 Canadian workplace literacy and learning programs were analyzed and the case studies are part of the report. The companies represent large, medium-sized and small businesses including three from Alberta (Keyera Energy, Lilydale Inc., and Omega 2000 Cribbing Inc.).

The case studies explain the barriers and challenges that each of the companies was experiencing in their attempts to introduce or maintain learning programs. The unique and innovation solutions they found to overcome the barriers demonstrates that there are many options for delivering health and safety information.

The benefits and safety impacts of these programs ranged from “a clear link between an increase in literacy and basic skills and a decrease in accidents on the job” to “employees feel there is a corporate commitment to their safety and well-being”.

The report concludes that organizations that take action realize benefits in the form of lower costs, increased efficiencies and healthier and safer workplaces. To read the full report go to the Conference Board of Canada at www.conferenceboard.ca/documents.aspx?did=3661

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