While technology has improved productivity in the workplace in a number of ways, it also presents a new set of challenges for employers and employees.
Finding solutions and raising awareness about these challenges is the focus of the upcoming Partners in Prevention Health and Safety Conference and Trade Show, which takes place at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont. May 2 and 3.
Hosted by Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS), the theme of this year's event is the New Workplace.
"It's a unique theme and really we all know that there is an unprecedented explosion of technology and that's really impacting the way we work," said Lynn Brownell, interim president and CEO of WSPS. "So while we see improved productivity from technology, there is also the human side of it that I think often gets overlooked so we're going to try and focus on that in the conference and look at things like work/life balance, corporate culture and mental wellness so that we can give people those coping strategies to go back and really manage in the new workplace."
This year's conference boasts two days with more than 70 sessions, workshops and professional development courses, keynote speakers and a trade show with over 400 booths featuring the latest in market trends, products and services for health and safety professionals.
"The highlights we like to focus on are the sharing of best practices, learning from the experts in the different conference sessions and just checking out the health and safety products and services in the trades show so they can take back a combination of solutions and interventions to their workplaces," explained Brownell.
She added, "When we have 1,400 delegates and over 400 different vendors in the building over a two-day period, it just gives them (health and safety professionals) a chance to do all of what they need to do in a one-stop opportunity."
"We've got a hands-on set-up where folks can wear impairment simulation goggles and test their driving skills and we're doing that in collaboration with the Ministry of Transportation,"
Workplace Safety and Prevention Services
Sessions at this year's conference will highlight traditional and emerging challenges in the new workplace and offer innovative solutions, Brownell stated.
Some construction industry-related topics include the anatomy of a fall; legitimate work refusal versus a labour relations complaint; a Ministry of Labour mock trial; asbestos; working at heights; work-related fatigue and anxiety associated with being connected 24/7; how the use of technology has impacted the workplace; the implications of legalizing marijuana on occupational health and safety; liability in workplace situations and preventing civil lawsuits and prosecution; and escalating consequences for being convicted or penalized for an occupational health and safety contravention.
Keynote speakers for the conference include Neil Pasricha, an award-winning blogger and New York Times best-selling author of The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything. He will be discussing ideas and frameworks that promote happiness.
Distraction expert Curt Steinhorst will be talking about the impact of technology on human behaviour and providing solutions to help today's workforce win the battle against digital distractions.
Steven Page, Canadian singer, songwriter and recording artist formerly with the Barenaked Ladies, will discuss mental health awareness.
One of the new features on the trade show floor this year is a distracted driving pavilion which aims to educate and raise awareness of safety issues on the road in an effort to make roads safer.
"We've got a hands-on set-up where folks can wear impairment simulation goggles and test their driving skills and we're doing that in collaboration with the Ministry of Transportation," Brownell noted, adding there is also a high risk pavilion featuring displays on working at heights and confined spaces and an escape room challenge.
She hopes people come out to the event to connect and collaborate.
"We're talking about technology but what I see is a shift of people wanting to connect with each other and get that human side of the interaction and learn from each other," said Brownell. "People are really trending towards coming back together."