Ask an Expert: ARHCA Talks Getting Involved in Your Industry

Safety is not a solitary activity. The best results occur when everyone in your company gets involved.

But if you really want to build a strong safety culture, you might want to consider going one step further. Getting involved in an industry association helps you position your company as part of a larger safety movement, and connects you with like-minded people who encourage and empower you to keep the safety conversation moving forward. Not to mention, it’s a fantastic opportunity to advocate for legislation and industry changes that will benefit your team.

Jenna Klynstra is the manager of environment, safety and education at the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association (ARHCA). The organization represents and advocates for companies involved in the construction and rehabilitation of highways, municipal roads, bridges and more. In addition to lobbying and advocacy activities, the ARHCA offers networking, volunteering and learning opportunities.

We asked Jenna about the benefits of joining an industry association, what safety managers in particular can gain from those connections, and how a united safety industry is greater than the sum of its parts.

What are the broader benefits of joining an industry association?

One of the biggest benefits is advocacy. When you have an organized group of people working together toward the same goal, you’re better equipped to organize your ideas in a way that that’s meaningful and valuable. That matters when you’re communicating with the government.

The other major benefit is networking. Being part of a professional organization creates a sense of community. You’re able to feed off your colleagues, or ask them questions if they’ve been through something you haven’t.

How specifically can OHS professionals benefit from an AHRCA membership?

We actually have a safety committee within the association. There are 12 people on the committee at a time, and we try to have a good sample of industry. We have found in the last couple of years that participating in industry association committees has become part of working toward certain industry designations.

A big part of what our safety committee does is share information with the rest of our membership, so even if you can’t join the committee, you’re still informed. We’ve developed distribution lists specific to topics like safety, human resources and the environment, so when important issues related to safety come up, we can communicate that to safety professionals who are members and have provided us with their information.

What are some of the benefits that most people don’t know about or tend not to take advantage of enough?

Volunteering is a big one. All of our committees are volunteer based, and sometimes we are challenged with having people volunteer and get involved because they just don’t know the value of doing it. It is time consuming, but getting the opportunity to sit in a room with government officials, or participating in developing a letter to the minister on behalf of the industry – when our members do get involved in that capacity, they find it to be a valuable experience.

When individuals and organizations come together in a professional association, how does the industry as a whole benefit?

I hate to use a cliche, but there is strength in numbers. If you have individuals trying to make a change on their own, you won’t always be heard. But if you have a collective voice, you can achieve so much, especially with the government.

For example, right now we’re working on getting highway maintenance workers included in slow-down legislation – the same kind of legislation that requires drivers to slow down to protect police officers or emergency vehicles on the side of the road. We want to incorporate highway maintenance workers into that legislation because they are working alongside the road, just like police officers and other emergency response vehicles. So to write a letter on behalf of the membership reflects that this is a collective movement, and that our broader industry thinks these workers are at risk. That’s going to have a bigger impact on legislation than individual voices could, so we have a better chance of impacting legislation and making our industry safer.

When a safety manager takes advantage of association resources, how does the rest of their team benefit?

As a safety manager, participating in your association allows you to learn about the latest safety-related developments in your industry, and then take that back to your team, so your whole company now has access to that information and education. That equips you to do things like help develop better company safety policies, introduce new technology that helps enhance safety, or even just bring good resources to toolbox talks.

Because of the direction legislation is going in, worksite health and safety committees are becoming a huge component of all industries. Having all of these safety professionals connect through an industry association helps enhance the health and safety conversation across all companies, and strengthens the safety culture of industries who are learning to rethink safety in a positive way. Having all of those people together in those rooms and engaging in the various avenues they can will start that conversation and move toward that change.

Thanks for your words of wisdom, Jenna! To learn more about ARHCA and how you can get involved, visit ARHCA.ab.ca.

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