NB Power big winner at safety awards

Psychological safety part of annual event recognizing employer practices, cultures
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/16/2016

More than 40 employers were recognized for award-winning safety practices and cultures at the sixth annual Canada’s Safest Employers (CSE) awards in Toronto recently.

And there were more nominations for 2016 than ever before, said Amanda Silliker, editor of Canadian Occupational Safety.

“This year, our winners truly span across the country, from an oil platform off the coast of Newfoundland to a mining site in Nunavut,” she said.

“I am continually blown away by the amazing programs you have in place to keep your workers safe. Some are elaborate and innovative, others are simple yet effective, but they are all a winning formula in your organizations.”

Attendees were also thanked by Federal Deputy Minister of Labour Lori Sterling.

“Without your commitment and your leadership to improve the safety of Canadian workplaces, we would not really be the envy of the world. Each time you take to improve safety in whatever industry you are, you raise the standards of that industry; you create a new benchmark for others to follow. And, at the end of the day, your goal is shared by all of us here in the room and that is that workplaces are safe and workers go home at night.”

Canada has been doing better when it comes to workplace safety, she said, with an 18 per cent decline in the disabling injury rate over the last 10 years, and fatalities down by 35 per cent.

“Nevertheless, on an average year, across Canada, 919 people lose their lives in the workplace. And so while we are making progress, it’s really too early to sit on our laurels, and there’s still good work to be done.”

Award winners

The first — and biggest — award of the night went to NB Power, winner of the Canada’s Best Health + Safety Culture award.

The company spent a number of years building a conventional safety management system, said Duff Boyd, director of health and safety. And though it saw gains, eventually these plateaued, while safety stats went in the wrong direction during times of organizational change.

So, NB Power decided to recruit an industrial and organizational psychologist.

“Together, we built an organizational model that was designed based on psychological principles — not to replace the safety management system, but rather to enable it,” said Boyd, adding the utility has reduced medical aid incidents by 97 per cent and disabling incidents by 99 per cent.

“The challenge of zero is not only attainable but it is inevitable if you accept the two sciences must work together.”

Another major category was the Young Worker Safety award. For 2016, the recipient was Techmation Electric & Controls.

It’s a company that values the different generations and works towards integrating them to work as one team, “a successfully motivated team that is self-actualizing towards the common goal of ensuring everyone gets home safe,” said Dan Hathaway, health, safety and environment manager.

“It’s important that you give these people the time, the tools, the training and the mentorship to ensure that they are successful.”

When it came to Psychological Safety, NB Power was again a winner, having launched a “We don’t need a better hard hat” program.

“When you study most of the bad things that happen in the world, the vast majority of them would not have happened if only the folks involved, at all levels, had have committed to the standards that they have. And while we’re not saying you can’t improve those standards, wouldn’t it be interesting if we put the same degree of resources and intelligence into understanding why the people couldn’t commit to the standards they had that were specifically designed to keep the bad things from happening?” said Boyd.

“That’s what our program is doing right now, is understanding that — at both individual and organizational levels.”

For the Manufacturing award, GSK Mississauga Manufacturing Plant was the winner.

“Excellent performance can only be achieved by engagement, by making sure everybody is evolving, evolved in driving performance at their level, owning safety in their own areas,” said Ruth Mello, site lead, environmental health and safety.

“For all the EHS professionals out there… spend time on the floor, make connections with key change agents in your areas in your organizations, make sure that you’re developing the capability of everyone around the site so they can make the right decisions when faced with challenges.”

PowerStream was a two-time winner when it came to the Utilities and Electrical category, and the Wellness category.

“We take wellness very seriously and very holistically, trying to look at the mental, physical, financial and social well-being of all of our employees,” said Mark Henderson, executive vice-president of asset management and COO.

“Our goal of this is to engage employees, promote healthy living, healthy lifestyles, because it is our firm belief that by so doing, we are taking care of our company’s most valuable assets, but also helping them to greater personal growth, more productivity, which is, in the end, essential to our company’s success.”

And 29-employee Tinhorn Creek Vineyards from B.C. was the recipient of the Hospitality award.

“I don’t know too many health and safety programs that have to worry about customers who drink too much and encounters with rattlesnakes. Or customers who get heat stroke and confined space entry,” said Sandra Oldfield, CEO and president, in accepting the award.

Psychological safety

Touching on the issue of psychological safety was keynote speaker Allan Kehler, mental wellness and positive living expert. Having lived through addiction, substance abuse and sexual assault, he said he has learned the importance of reaching out to people who are in pain.

“If we just approach them and say, ‘I don’t mean to pry, I just want to let you know I’m concerned, I just want to let you know I’d be more than happy to listen if you ever needed to talk’ — that’s it,” he said.

Sometimes, people think they have to fix people, but people in pain just want to be seen and heard, said Kehler.

“You have now given them an opportunity to be heard and whether or not they act on that invite is completely out of your control.”

If people don’t respond to a co-worker who appears in distress, it can lead to the individual’s condition worsening and co-workers picking up the slack, leading to a decrease in team morale, a decrease in productivity, increased company costs and the safety of that individual and those around him at stake, he said.

“Compassion changes everything. It changes our own ability to deal with a situation, the workplace and overall culture as a whole,” said Kehler.

The full list of winners can be found at www.safestemployers.com.

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