Ottawa employer earns international safety rating

Workplace environments 'have a disproportionate impact on our health and well being'

Ottawa employer earns international safety rating

An Ottawa employer recently received third-party validation for its efforts towards office safety, and they did it with the human experience in mind.

Stantec – an international professional services company in the design and consulting industry – recently earned the WELL Health-Safety Rating for its Ottawa office through the International WELL Building Institute.

The rating leverages insights drawn from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) Task Force on COVID-19, as well as guidance on the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among others.

In ensuring workers’ safety in the office, Stantec went to great lengths.

The company improved hygiene in the office by offering specific hygienic soap containers and hand dryers. They also “implemented temporary and permanent strategies to reduce the frequency” of workers touching high-touch surfaces, and imposed no hand touch policies for some surfaces, says Ghina Annan, senior sustainability specialist for Stantec and WELL certification coordinator, in talking with Canadian HR Reporter.

Stantec also turned to instruction and training materials and record-keeping to ensure safety. The company also restricted hazardous and harmful ingredients, and cleaning and disinfection and sanitization products, and implemented design and policy strategies to minimize instances of contact with contaminated respiratory particles.

“We created a business continuity plan to facilitate the resilience during and recovery after an emergency,” says Annan. “We also implemented a re-entry plan, and that basically includes a re-evaluation of existing policies, protocols and programs, inclusive of risks inspections of the building systems, the frequent occupant communications and flexible reentry options.”

More than half of workers in the U.S. are very (18 per cent) or moderately (36 per cent) worried about new strains of COVID-19 spreading, according to a Gallup report released in September 2022.

Healthy indoors for healthy workers

Annan highlights the importance of maintaining safety in a closed space.

“We spend 90 per cent, if not more of our time, indoors. And it is obvious… that the indoor environments where we work, we live, we eat have a disproportionate impact on our health and well being. 

“So we need to know that… and make sure that the indoors that we spend time in are healthy enough so that we are able to be more productive, we are able to… decrease the number of absenteeism, and even [make workers] feel happy and comfortable at work.”

The movement towards green and sustainable buildings in the past years have got that covered, she says.

“When we focus on the human experience of the buildings and spaces we design, we actually have the ability to add meaningful value to the assets, generate savings and enhance the human and wellbeing and overall experience of spaces and places.”

Three-quarters of those who have returned to the workplace say they want a more environmentally friendly office with green spaces and eco-friendly practices, according to a previous report. And one employer previously turned to a biophilic office design to entice workers back to the office.

All these efforts also contribute to enticing workers back to the office, says Annan.

“By promoting healthy behaviors and reducing exposure to any harmful substance, this really means that you will have increased engagement and overall organizational success. So if you have people interested in, [and are] happy coming to the office, then that's really something that is important to us.”

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