Ontario seminar draws record attendance

By |  January 26, 2024
Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s 2024 Operations, Health & Safety Seminar drew a record 350 people to the Marriott Toronto Airport Hotel. Photo: P&Q Staff

The Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s 2024 Operations, Health & Safety Seminar drew a record 350 people to the Marriott Toronto Airport Hotel. Photo: P&Q Staff

The Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (OSSGA) hosted its annual Operations, Health & Safety Seminar this week in Toronto, drawing a record 350 people to the Marriott Toronto Airport Hotel.

The meeting, which includes a trade show, education sessions and networking opportunities, is the biggest event the association hosts, outdrawing the annual OSSGA Conference typically held each winter.

“It’s become the big one, and it didn’t used to be,” says Julie Harrington, director of training and development at OSSGA, when asked about the Operations, Health & Safety Seminar versus the OSSGA Conference. “They used to be pretty equal, but I think more companies realize the importance of making sure people are trained and up to date on health and safety.”

According to Harrington, the number of exhibitors and attendees were both up over last year’s Operations, Health & Safety Seminar. The 2023 seminar also made gains, though, as COVID impacted the in-person element of OSSGA’s Operations, Health & Safety Seminar in 2021 and 2022.Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (OSSGA) logo

“We had about 32 exhibitors last year, and we have 37 this year,” Harrington says. “It’s a record high. We’ve never sold out, so 37 is fantastic.”

Harrington says the nature of the people attending the Operations, Health & Safety Seminar has somewhat changed.

“I think we have a combination of new people who are in the industry, but also a lot of the veterans,” she says. “There are a lot of people we recognize from previous years. Before COVID, we knew about half of them, and we didn’t know the other half. This year, we have a lot of repeat people coming back, as well as some people who are new to the industry – because we’re hiring. There’s lots going on out in the industry. There are lots of projects.”

Additionally, Harrington says OSSGA’s individual producer member companies are sending more people to the Operations, Health & Safety Seminar.

“We’re seeing a lot of active members sending not just two or three, but 10 or 12,” she says. “Before, they would only send a handful of people and now it’s like two handfuls of people, which is great because a lot of these operations are growing. There’s a lot of mergers and acquisitions taking place, and they’re seeing the value. They’re that much bigger, and they have that many more people.”

Topics of focus

Members of the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association staff, from left, are Ashlee Zelek (director of environment and sustainability), Carly Holmstead (communications specialist) and Julie Harrington (director of training and development). Photo: P&Q Staff

Members of the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association staff, from left, are Ashlee Zelek (director of environment and sustainability), Carly Holmstead (communications specialist) and Julie Harrington (director of training and development). Photo: P&Q Staff

The educational slate at this year’s OSSGA seminar featured a variety of speakers, including Miller Aggregates’ Cindy McCarthy, Major’s Ian Edwards, BuildSafe’s Susan Carey and Provix’s Dave Winfield.

McCarthy delivered a community relations-focused presentation, making a case that neighbors can be an aggregate operation’s best advocate. Edwards presented three tips to increase screening efficiency during one of his two presentations, zeroing in on stratification, open area, and blinding and pegging.

Carey’s presentation focused on empowering women in the workplace, detailing the many difficulties women face in a male-dominated industry. Winfield, meanwhile, provided insights on mobile equipment safety, sharing how AI, radar and safety cameras can offer solutions.

“The other big topic we’re always talking about is the hiring of new people and looking to diversify,” Harrington says. “We had a topic on that, dealing not just with young people but all generations. It’s a big topic at our February meeting, too.”

With labor shortages an industry reality, leaders in Ontario are having more conversations of late about bringing women into the workplace and providing the accommodations to attract them to aggregates.

“We have a supplier here who has clothing that is specifically made for women because they have different body shapes,” Harrington says. “They need it for health and safety. Even those little details are starting to be addressed because we’re seeing diversification, which is fantastic. It’s great to see suppliers starting to fill that need.”

Mental health has been a focus in recent years for OSSGA events, too.

“On top of the muscular issues that come with working at pits and quarries, we’ve also focused more on the mental health aspect and how substance abuse and mental health impact,” says Carly Holmstead, communications specialist at OSSGA. “That’s been a really important topic we’ve had the last two years – at least – talking about mental health and how that impacts employee safety.”

Related: Safety-focused meetings to consider early this year

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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