Small Business Leadership Awards 2021 Recap

The winners of 2021’s 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.

Every year, Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board holds its Small Business Leadership Awards ceremony to recognize and celebrate the efforts of small businesses throughout the province who put significant effort into safeguarding the health and safety of their workforce and employees. Workplace health and safety has been under constant strain since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and maintaining clean, accessible working and retail 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 activities safe, and recognized their trustworthiness and reliability 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 also like to commemorate the responsibility and professionalism of this year’s winners.

Before observing these enterprises’ achievements, though, it is important for us to understand health and safety’s role in any business’s success. During the ceremony, WSIB’s Vice President, Rod Cook, spoke to Dr. Chris McLeod of the University of British Columbia for an informed perspective on corporate well-being. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 62% of Ontarian have gained a greater interest in health and safety, and view businesses that take the appropriate measures to protect their customer base in a better light than those that do not. In his studies, Dr. McLeod recorded that businesses which employed strong health and safety practices prior to the pandemic were able to respond to its challenges proactively, and have generally seen a smaller loss of productivity than other businesses over the past two years. McLeod also discussed the relationship between a business’s success and employee empowerment, and determined that organizations who provided their workforce with a high degree of autonomy, trust, and acknowledgment continuously see high operational stability.

Now, let’s move on to 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 Huntersville-based First General Muskoka, which, in 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 developed a stellar reputation in its community.

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 to facilitate functional protective measures throughout the manufacturing sector. Attend EMC events frequently for knowledge and expertise crucial to leaders in Canadian manufacturing.

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