A ‘Hallmark’ of safety

Award-winning Hallmark Tubulars keeps complacency at bay
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/19/2013

Workplace safety is the number one priority at Hallmark Tubulars, which explains why it has been recognized as one of Canada’s Safest Employers for two years in a row, in the mining and natural resources category, by Canadian Occupational Safety magazine, a sister publication to Canadian HR Reporter.

The 150-employee company — which delivers tubular goods for the oil industry, along with engineering expertise and transportation and inventory management support — understands the risks involved and the implications of someone getting hurt, says Henry Ewert, president.

“We know that any incident not only affects those that are directly involved but also their co-workers, their family, their friends — the whole community is impacted by any incident. So we’ve dedicated ourselves to, first of all, the prevention of anything happening,” he says.

“So safety is… our number one priority, it’s our vision, our mission; our value statements all embed safety as the foundational principal.”

Hallmark also has clients that are world-class organizations, says Ewert, who is based in Calgary.

“They’re very attuned to operating with companies that are like-minded when it comes to safety.”

Safety is also the number one corporate strategy, says Monique Britten, director of HSEQ (health, safety, environment and quality) at Hallmark in Calgary.

“We pursue it much the same way companies pursue market share, so we sort of attack from all different angles and seek alignment from our field-level personnel all the way up to the president and CEO and entire executive team,” she says.

“This is a bit of an iterative cycle, so programs are maintained and revisited so that we can continuously improve them.”

For example, the company has an emergency response program where staff are trained on medical emergency evacuations and severe weather events while a journey-risk management program includes the installation of GPS units on tong trucks and pool vehicles, along with training on fatigue.

For 2013, the company is developing a driver training program that includes classroom training, a written test and commentary driving (talking out loud to develop defensive driving tactics).

“It’s programs like this that have been developed over the years that have led to a very robust HSC management system and that has led to a culture that’s really been ingrained in the fabric of the company, and has instilled a sense of passion in employees,” says Britten.

What’s neat is these types of initiatives start to catch on and become part of the culture, says Ewert.

“Quite often, we’re having now initiatives that are being brought to management by employees about improved ways that they see they can do their jobs,” he says, citing as an example the work done by yard people and engineers around load securement on semi-trucks, which has become the basis for an industry standard across North America.

“Once it catches into the culture, it just sort of feeds on itself and we really encourage anybody in the organization to really be empowered to improve safety.”

Another big component is Hallmark’s mentorship program. From the first day a new hire starts, he is assigned a highly skilled co-worker who stays with him until he is evaluated for safety competence, usually after six months, on 14 criteria such as assessing hazards, inspecting equipment, incident reporting and ability to fill out paperwork.

The type of work done at Hallmark is challenging, involving heavy equipment, mobile equipment and heavy pipe and tube products, says Ewert. There’s also a lot of outdoor activity and 24-hour operations so sometimes people operate in the dark — under tight deadlines.

“We have a relatively young workforce and I’m still young enough to remember when you’re 20 years old, you’re still (thinking you’re) bullet-proof, so we spend a lot of time working with the young folks to help them recognize that they aren’t bulletproof, things can happen and they do have to manage the risks,” he says.

“That’s one of the key reasons why we have this mentorship program is to be able to embed that attitude in the new employees right off the bat.”

And management is well-prepared to reinforce the safety culture as many of them have worked on the ground, so they’re quite aware of the risks and issues employees are facing, says Ewert.

In any kind of meeting, health and safety and environmental issues are first on the agenda.

“The employees see and get the message, time and time again, that they are not only allowed to stop work but they have a responsibility to stop unsafe work. If they feel they’re not trained or equipment isn’t up to snuff, then they have full authority to stop work,” says Britten.

“They have full authority to do whatever needs to be done in an emergency situation to make sure that their colleagues are taken care of, and the message is brought forward from management at every opportunity.”

A big part of the challenge is keeping the safety message alive, and the only way to do this is to instill a passion for safety in employees, she says.

“The most effective way to change behaviours is if people are passionate about it and if they have a mindset that ‘Safety starts with me and ends with all of my co-workers around me.’”

It’s about people looking out for themselves but also taking notice if a co-worker mentions something unsafe or feels something isn’t right.

“We want people to welcome that feedback from colleagues,” says Britten.

As part of that, human resources does re-enactments or simulations after an incident has happened, which makes it more real for people, says Ewert.

And winning the safest employer award is the highest compliment a company such as Hallmark, in its industry, can be given, says Britten.

“It’s very humbling and, at the same time, it just motivates us to constantly improve, to do more, to keep that enemy of complacency at the door, not to let it creep into our operations. So an award like this re-energizes us and keeps our focus on the end goal.”


For more information on Canada’s Safest Employers, visit www.safestemployers.com.

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