Cross-sector stakeholders work together to impact and change safety culture in health care industry

Susan Dempsey, Executive Director of AWARE-NS at the June 2018 launch of  Charting the Course: Workplace Safety for Nova Scotia’s Home Care, Long Term Care & Disability Support Sectors.

Susan Dempsey, Executive Director of AWARE-NS at the June 2018 launch of Charting the Course: Workplace Safety for Nova Scotia’s Home Care, Long Term Care & Disability Support Sectors.

STRATEGIC GOAL: Expand strategic relationships to enhance the commitment to workplace health and safety and return to work across the province

Our work together has created a foundation of strong relationships to move this work forward.
— Susan Dempsey, Executive Director of AWARE-NS

Caring for others is one of the most rewarding jobs in Nova Scotia, but care providers are more likely to be injured on the job than any other worker.

The numbers are concerning.

Although long-term care, home care and disability support account for only 7 per cent of the province’s total assessable payroll, they have one of the highest rates of injury reported to WCB, representing almost 22 per cent of all time-loss claims. The majority of their injuries are from moving and handling clients, slips, trips and falls, and workplace violence.

Behind every time-loss statistic and number is a person that was hurt at work, and a life that was thrown out of balance.

That’s why a team of dedicated stakeholders, led by AWARE-NS (the Nova Scotia Health and Community Services Safety Association), came together to build a stronger safety culture in these sectors.

Over two years, AWARE-NS, along with WCB Nova Scotia, three government departments, organized labour, and employers developed a report with recommendations to improve health and safety outcomes in these sectors.


Our Progress



Our Plans


  • Continue to support conversations within the system regarding the future of workers’ compensation in Nova Scotia.
  • Continue to work with and support those who share our goals for a safer working Nova Scotia.
  • Continue to reduce red tape and build interjurisdictional efficiencies wherever possible.

“We started by researching best practices in Nova Scotia, nationally and internationally,” says Susan Dempsey, Executive Director of AWARE-NS. “From there we moved into consultation with the stakeholders and then into a working-group process. WCB was certainly foundational. It was their idea to try to bring the sectors together and shed light on this huge issue and do something about it.”

For Shelley Rowan, Vice President Prevention and Service Delivery for WCB Nova Scotia, seeing representatives of government, employers and workers all work collaboratively towards solutions was inspiring. “As Nova Scotians, we all rely on our health care system, and we need the people in that sector working and healthy,” she says. “I saw great commitment and belief that we could make that happen.”

Since the health care sector is large and complex, it was vital to get input and participation from a wide range of people who both lead and work in it, Rowan adds. “That focus on engagement in defining the issue and then looking to what some of those solutions might be was crucial in having a good, solid report and recommendations that can be implemented over time.”

The final report, released in June 2018, is Charting the Course: Workplace Safety for Nova Scotia’s Home Care, Long Term Care & Disability Support Sectors. Its recommendations will help move the sectors towards safer workplaces and workers, better practices, lower premiums, and improved quality of care for all Nova Scotians. But with the right training, equipment, support, leadership, and safety culture, all of these injuries should be preventable.

In partnership with WCB and others, AWARE-NS is responsible for guiding the implementation of the report’s 21 recommendations over the next five years, a process that is already underway.

“Our work together has created a foundation of strong relationships to move this work forward,” Dempsey says.