MOU aims to bridge employers, employees in workplace health
- Chelsea Laskowski | March 07, 2018
After signing a memorandum of understanding, a number of Saskatchewan-based companies are part of a movement to better understand the workplace health of Indigenous people.
Among those who have signed the MOUs with the Saskatchewan First Nations Safety Association (SFNSA) since last year are Bridges Health and Mosaic Potash, putting their MOU tally at 24 First Nations, organizations like FSIN, businesses and academic institutions. According to the SFNSA, those documents formalize a commitment to build on the strengths of both parties in order to enhance safety education and directives.
For Bridges Health, which has offices in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert, the conversation started back in October at a safety conference where Vice-President Leon Ferguson met with SFNSA founder and CEO Toby Desnomie. Ferguson said there was a desire on his end to get educated on First Nations culture.
“I think it’s imperative for an organization like ourselves to come in with a clear mind and coming in with the intent to understand, not come in with intent to solve because we don’t understand it yet,” he said.
Bridges Health is focused on helping employees with illnesses and injuries, who face sporadic work absences, as they navigate health, education and supports. Meanwhile, SFNSA’s mission is to empower the province’s 74 First Nations communities through promoting and supporting an injury-free lifestyle.
Some of the topics both Ferguson and Desnomie think are relevant to workplace health for First Nations people include geographical challenges, the remoteness of some communities, historical trauma, and lateral trauma.
“What we are doing is bringing them (Bridges Health) into the fold and starting the conversation surrounding these topics that First Nations people are moving through,” Desnomie said.
Ferguson said he is passionate about learning more because he values Indigenous people in the province.
“There’s all these different challenges that some of us can’t relate to and it’s not because we don’t want to it’s because we just don’t know. And I think that there’s a lot of opportunity for us to become more aware of those challenges,” Ferguson said. “We can’t forget that people are struggling with different things. For us we have a focus on the workplace so we have to truly understand what’s going on behind the scenes as well.”
One benefit Desnomie said SFNSA will get from the partnership is a better understanding of mental health. Already, Desnomie and Ferguson have discussed how mental health contributes to the health and safety of the worker, and how that can be tied into rules, regulations and practices within the workplace. Bridges Health already has a practice of educating employees about mental health and equipping them with Mental Health First Aid.
Desnomie said further meetings with Bridges Health and the other groups they have signed MOUs with will help inform a future First Nations Mental Health Strategy the SFNSA is working towards. Desnomie has 20 years’ experience in the operational health and public safety field but the SFNSA is still fairly new, having launched in the summer of 2016 with its home base in Fort Qu’Appelle.
Overall, Desnomie said his goal is to give a voice at the table for First Nations workers when it comes to occupational health and safety.