Healthy and safe lifestyle choices continue to gain momentum across the province. More than 250 business and community leaders attended the 2017 Health and Safety Leadership Charter event at Saskatoon’s Prairieland Park where safety was the theme of the day.
About 25 new signatories signed the Charter at the event and agreed to its seven principles and to support the improvement of healthy and safe workplace
The second annual Mission: Zero Awards also were handed out to three Saskatchewan organizations that have made extraordinary strides in creating a safety culture at their place of work.
Congratulations to R.P. Automotive in Weyburn, the Saskatchewan Opportunities Corporation and to Viterra on their first-place awards.
Earl Cameron, President of Safe Saskatchewan, and Gord Moker, the CEO of Safe Saskatchewan, delivered opening remarks to those in attendance.
Peter Federko, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board shared highlights in how the injury rate in this province has gradually declined over the years. He said Charter signatories were making the biggest difference.
This year’s keynote speaker was Alice Wong. She’s the senior vice-president and CCO at Cameco Corporation, a uranium mining that has experienced a remarkable shift in attitude toward its safety culture over the past decade.
Wong admitted that conventional safety was not a part of the safety culture at Cameco in her early days. As a result, the company dealt with “many fatalities” and struggled with employee safety.
Eventually, Cameco took a stand and committed to a safer working environment.
“No job is so important that we cannot take the time to do it safely,” Wong shared during her presentation.
Four seconds has made an impact. Wong explained how each employee can do a four-second self-check at each work station – an action that reduces potential injury hazards by close to 90 per cent, she said.
As well, Cameco implemented a new safety program and Occupational Safety and Health Administration metrics were introduced at frequent safety meetings.
“Our biggest challenge now is to continue to drive better performances and increase individual accountability … because programs and policies aren’t enough,” Wong said. “Employees need to own it.”
Progress has been measured. More than 700 employees responded to a company survey and 83 per cent indicated that safety is a top priority.
Cameco also is one of a growing number of companies that believes mental health is just as important to physical health. Celebrity guests with mental health issues have engaged employees in conversations and have spoken at company events about how manage their illnesses.
Wong said Cameco is working hard to remove the stigma that surrounds mental health and is working with employees to offer better support.
Wong concluded her presentation by saying a safety culture is fragile. It’s important to celebrate improvements and success, but the focus must remain in place. Also, she said investing in safety must be a top priority, even when an industry has less profitable years.
“Safety doesn’t come easy … but if you take care of the people, the rest will take care of itself,” Wong said.
Another excellent and informative safety discussion took place with the three featured Charter panel members. Amy McNeil, the executive director with SARC/SARCAN Recycling, joined Dan Beuker and Don Black on stage where each shared their ideas and strategies with regards to health and safety at their respective workplaces. Beuker is the CEO and general manager with Failure Prevention Services, a specialty oil and filtration company, and Black is the branch manager of Safway Services Canada, which specializes in construction scaffolding.
Each shared a brief history in how health and safety became a core value at their companies.
“It was just accepted that people would get hurt on the job all the time,” Black said. But he admitted that there has been a dramatic improvement in how health and safety are accepted at more job sites today than in the past.
A simple hazard recognition scan of the work area has made a big difference for Safway employees. Safway Services has accumulated more than one million hours on the job without a time-lost injury.
“If you have safe in your company name then you better follow through on that,” Black said.
Beuker shared how a 20-20-20 practice of constantly checking and re-evaluating work stations every 20 seconds to ensure there are no risks or hazards.
McNeil admitted that she and senior leadership at SARCAN always believed they were adhering to all the proper safety protocols and that “everything was fine”, until it wasn’t. SARCAN Recycling recorded three time-lost injuries last year and McNeil said that was three too many.
She said the company’s dedication to safety begins at the applicant interview prior to being hired. They want to gauge a person’s views on health and safety before they join the team.
A health and safety team formed, safety policies and programs were introduced and conversations through peer-to-peer learning is a common theme among all staff.
“It should be every employee’s expectation that the person working beside them is working safely,” McNeil said.
Next year’s event will be held on June 13, 2018 in Regina at the Conexus Arts Centre. Moker encouraged those in attendance to bring a colleague to next year’s event where he would like to see this year’s crowd size doubled.