The Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition will get $25,000 over the next two years to work towards earning a "safe community" designation with the World Health Organization (WHO).
And that could mean up to a 75 percent savings in Workers’ Compensation Board premiums for area businesses that choose to participate in the project.
"Our goal is 50 [businesses]," said Doug Anderson, chairman of the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition. "We have four signed up right now and we’re just scratching the surface."
Now the challenge is to identify "danger zones" throughout the district, find out why they exist, and how to make them safe.
"It means that we’re just starting the job," admitted Anderson, who was notified last Thursday that the area was one of seven across the country chosen to take part in the project.
"We’ve been accepted into the procedure to begin working toward this designation. We’d like to be the first in Ontario to achieve [it]," he added, with the goal to achieve the designation by 2001.
To get things rolling, four safety coalition members--Anderson, Doug Langtry (Abitibi-Consolidated), Carol Ewacha (Northwestern Health Unit) and its part-time co-ordinator (who hasn’t been hired yet)--will head to Toronto for a conference Sept. 30-Oct. 1
One thing WHO is asking communities to look at is why accidents occur in low-risk areas when they aren’t occurring in high-risk ones. For instance, the mill here consistently has been ranked as the safest in Ontario and Canada in recent years yet accidents are happening in people’s homes.
But the coalition isn’t heading into this empty-handed. It has been working over the past five years to identify areas that need improvement.
In fact, there are seven areas it wants to hone in on over the next two years to help raise the local safety standard:
oestablishing a district safety resource centre, with a computerized and print version of inventory of safety resources available throughout the district;
odecreasing the severity and cost of workplace injuries and disease by 20 percent over the next year, and WCB claims by 20 percent;
opromoting safety among farm and rural residents by increasing membership in the Rainy River District Federation of Agriculture, and have 20 percent of district farms undergo a farm safety audit;
oincreasing personal safety practices associated with bicycles, motor vehicles, and car seats. Plans include giving away helmet safety stickers and holding child restraint clinics (of the two clinics the group has held in the past, only one person had installed a child’s car seat into a vehicle properly);
oreducing playground injuries by 20 percent; and
oreducing accidents and injuries among the elderly, with the area having a very high rate of senior women injured from falling.
"By being a member of this group, we have a very big chance to make some measurable results," Anderson said, noting his dream was to see everyone part of the safety coalition.
But people don’t have to be part of the coalition to help make their community a safer place to live. Anderson said people just have to look around their neighbourhoods and see what needed to be done.
If they could make the improvements themselves, then great. If not, seek the help of some neighbours. And if it’s too big for the neighbourhood to fix, then ask the town, he said.
Most importantly, Anderson hoped area residents would work together to reduce accidents--and accidental deaths.
"It devastates the whole community when it happens," he noted.