Working to make work safer

Sandy MacKay of Hope River spent his career making workplaces safer. Now semi-retired, MacKay is an organic farmer and member of the Employment Standards Board.

Sandy MacKay realized early that he wanted to dedicate his life to the safety of others.

Shortly after his 44-year-old father died of a heart attack at Brookvale Ski Park, 16-year-old Sandy joined the ski patrol. Later, as a young emergency medical technician, his first call was to a workplace accident in Charlottetown that resulted in a fatality. That experience further strengthened his resolve to make things safer for Island workers.

After spending four decades educating himself and others about safety in the workplace, and over a decade as a board member on the Workers Compensation Board, the Hope River man has been appointed to the Employment Standards Board through Engage PEI.

“I thought I could bring a balanced approach to the board because of my years in the labor movement,” MacKay said.

He served as president of Union of Public Service Employees (UPSE) for six years in the 1980s, and has represented PEI on the Canadian Labor Congress and the board of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE.)

MacKay wrote a health and safety policy for the provincial government garage after seeing many colleagues make simple safety mistakes.

“For a year I watched people do their jobs and I saw a lot of bad habits, which can be hard to break,” he said. “I knew we could reduce the rate of injury through prevention.”

He was also part of a team that drafted the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, which came into effect in 1988. 

“I just wouldn’t give up. If they write a history book they may even include me,” he said with a laugh.

MacKay says he’s pleased with the many changes over the last four decades, and he's looking for ward to doing more. Mental health supports are a new realm of worker’s compensation that he is learning about now.

“There are parts of the world where, if you get hurt at work, there is no backup," MacKay said. “Here, in 2017 in PEI, if you need help, there are systems to help you.”

Engage PEI helps Islanders apply to volunteer on more than 70 provincial government agencies, boards, and commissions.

To find a board that matches your interests, visit Engage PEI

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