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Small Business Leadership Awards 2021 Recap

The winners of the 2021 Small Business Leadership Awards took great efforts to safeguard their employees and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s celebrate their work, and discuss the importance of health and safety practices for all organizations.

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Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) holds its Small Business Leadership Awards ceremony to recognize and celebrate the efforts of small businesses throughout the province who put significant effort into protecting the health and safety of their employees. Workplace health and safety has been under constant strain since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and maintaining clean, accessible working environments is now more important than ever before. At this year’s ceremony, the WSIB selected three organizations that went to great lengths to make their workplace safe with financial rewards and a space to broadcast their individual corporate values. In fellow admiration of these businesses’ dedication to upholding effective safety measures, EMC would like to commemorate the responsibility and professionalism of this year’s winners.

Taking home the bronze Small Business Leadership Award was Aardvark Drilling Inc., a Guelph-based well-drilling contractor that maintains rigorous worker protection methods throughout its Ontario-wide operations. The silver award was won by Huntsville-based First General Muskoka, who, during the pandemic’s innumerable stressors, implemented an innovative mental health program to keep its employee base focused, engaged, and emotionally active. Finally, the ceremony’s top prize was awarded to Tara Natural Foods; a Kingston-based grocery store that completely revamped its retail services around the health of its employees and customers throughout the pandemic. Through a number of simple processes — including shopping cart restrictions, the implementation of plexiglass barriers, and separated employee break areas — Tara Natural Food’s facilities have remained safe, sanitary, and productive over numerous lockdowns and viral peaks. By keeping employee wages stable, even during reduced hours of activity, the business has also managed to retain its entire labour force and has maintained its stellar reputation in the community.

In celebration of his organization’s achievement, Greg Zehr, Aardvark Drilling’s Health and Safety Manager, sat down with EMC to discuss his thoughts on the current state of health and safety throughout the Canadian employment landscape. During this discussion, Zehr identified a number of issues pertinent to the well-being of his organization’s workers — COVID-19, unsafe transportation conditions, utility hazards — and opined on the importance of employee security for every aspect of a business’s success. Aardvark Drilling — the first EMC member to receive a WSIB award — maintains a culture of health and safety that places it at the forefront of its industry and, says Zehr, it is this dedication to responsibility and professionalism that benefits the company’s growth, development, and employee retention above all else. When prompted for his personal recommendation on improving general health and safety standards, Zehr encouraged business leaders to properly employ their internal resources (including joint health and safety committees) and to take advantage of organizations, like EMC, that offer a wide variety of expert-driven guidance, improvement programs, and financial benefits.

The achievements of this year’s Small Business Leadership Awards winners serve as a shining example for all Ontarian businesses to look up to when employing their own health and safety practices. By taking the appropriate measures — big and small — to protect their employees and customers, organizations in any industry can enjoy heightened productivity, a motivated workforce, and a respectable corporate image.

To learn more about the importance of maintaining strong corporate health and safety standards, see EMC’s Health and Safety Excellence Program; a joint effort with the WSIB.

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