Improving our workplaces, homes and communities in ways that predict and prevent injuries is admirable.
Many in Saskatchewan are doing just that. Inspiring examples of leadership and innovation exist throughout the province.
The Mission: Zero Awards were created to recognize that important work. They are awarded to those workplaces that demonstrate a sustained improvement in their injury rate over time and that influence a transformation in their organizational culture so that injury prevention is a core value.
Three categories of Mission: Zero Awards exist: small, medium and large employers. A winner is chosen in each of the categories. Those winners are announced during the annual Health and Safety Leadership Charter event.
The Mission: Zero Awards will no doubt be a source of pride for the workplaces earning them. But all the finalists in each category are to be commended. They are contributing to the growth of a culture of health and safety in Saskatchewan.
Below are profiles of each Mission: Zero Awards finalist outlining their actions and aspirations so that other organizations can learn from their examples.
Small Employer Category
Pinter and Associates Ltd.
You don’t need to give Lawrence Pinter, CEO of Pinter and Associates Ltd., a reminder about the importance of health and safety in the workplace. He’s lived it.
“I’ve been involved in a life-altering industrial accident, so I have personal experience with injuries, pain, rehabilitation and changing the course of my career and my life. I pass that on to my employees.”
While he doesn’t need the reminder himself, he makes continuous efforts to ensure employees get the message.
“As with anything else, you need to remind people and with safety, it takes constant reminding. We have set up protocols to address safety on a daily basis when we do work on projects. We do daily hazard assessments. Safety is reviewed and involved in the planning of the beginning of the fieldwork. Each year we have a field training day and safety is a component of that.”
This awareness has yielded impressive results but also sometimes ironic ones.
“There are more near misses being reported and that’s not because we’re performing more poorly with respect to safety, but because they’re more cognizant of reporting those near misses. Our core audit scores have improved over the years and now we’re consistently over 90 per cent and we’re really aiming for 96 per cent. We haven’t had a lost time accident in 20 years.”
The company extends its safety awareness to the community by encouraging staff to report near misses that they had at home, just as they would if it had occurred at work.
Pinter and Associates Ltd. are also safety consultants. They provide safety consulting services to a variety of clients, such as Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation.
“Over the years, we’ve been able to work toward Hatchet Lake gaining capacity internally to manage their safety program, and over the years we see our involvement with them in safety becoming less, to the point where I’m not even sure we are required. They have folks there now on staff that can deal with their safety issues,” Lawrence says.
Stoughton Consumers Co-operative Association
Deric Reaney, General Manager of the Stoughton Consumers Co-operative Association, has a very personal stake in ensuring the safety of his employees: it helps him sleep at night.
“Health and safety to all our staff is top priority. I like to be able to go and sleep at night knowing that we’ve done what we could to provide that kind of workplace for them.”
Deric also sees safety as vital to the company’s brand.
“The Stoughton Co-op as a recognizable community leader and I feel that having that kind of image is a good example of how a workplace should operate.”
The Co-Op has implemented improved training, better communication and more PPE for employees. The investment has paid off.
“We’ve seen far fewer injuries at our co-op, which has put us into a rebate position with Occupational Health and Safety, so not only do I feel that we’re providing a better work environment for our staff, but we’re also being fiscally responsible to our co-op members. I also think it provides a certain level of comfort to people working here knowing they have a safe place to work. This has also led to less missed work days in our organization, which is better for everybody as well.”
Deric credits the Saskatchewan Health & Safety Charter for much of the advancement they’ve made.
“Mission Zero has made us more aware of possible hazards. Things that a person might never have thought about 10 years ago are very much front of mind right now. We’re definitely going in the right direction as a province and country as a whole.”
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2067
Electrical workers have a long history with workplace safety but it hasn’t always been a positive one.
“When our union started about 125 years ago, one in five linemen were dying on the job. The union wasn’t just started for money or benefits — it was actually founded on the basis of trying to get training and safety. So safety has been our primary model,” says Jason Tibbs, Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2067.
At the core of building that model is leadership, Jason says.
“When we meet with our members, we’re not just telling them how to be safe, we’re showing that we’re doing the same, by the vehicle choices we make, by how we plan our days, how we show up on site wearing the proper PPE. One of the things that irritate people the most is when CEOs and managers show up on the job site to preach safety, but yet they’re not donning the proper PPE themselves.”
Through their positive example, Tibbs and the IBEW staff have made great strides in achieving cooperation from their employers.
“In 2015, one of our members was fatally injured. I met with the CEO of the company and said that we had to do something different, that the same old idea of saying safety first wasn’t cutting it and we had to take a drastic change and to change the safety culture. We partnered to develop new safety rules, we developed a safety improvement program, and we immediately started implementing items for change.”
The union and its employers also work together to communicate the importance of safety at home and in the community.
“We tell our members to take their workplace practices home and go over it with their kids or family members. I’m sure if you asked most people, ‘Do you wear protective gear when you cut your lawn?’ most people would say no, yet in the workplace, that would be an expectation. What kind of example does that set for your kids? Those are things they need to pass on to family members,” Jason says.
Medium Employer Category
Namerind Housing Corporation
Robert Byers strikes a philosophical tone as he reflects on how Namerind Housing Corporation’s approach to safety line up with the company’s Indigenous values.
“Every life is precious. When we first started and we were talking about people being injured or even dying at the workplace, one of the comments somebody made was, ‘it’s not a battlefield. We shouldn’t be losing people or having such severe injuries at work.’”
While Namerind understood the importance of safety, they weren’t sure where to start with developing a safety plan, Robert says.
“In 2012, when we first signed the Saskatchewan Health & Safety Charter, we recognized that we now have a responsibility to develop our own safety program. But we didn’t know exactly where to start or what it all entailed. We hired a safety consultant who worked with us. He spent time with us, got to learn about the organization and helped us to develop our program.”
Namerind’s safety plan includes buying all the safety equipment – such as steel-toed boots – for its property management and tenant relations representatives. The company also pays the full price of CSA approved prescription safety glasses.
Namerind’s safety plan also extends to its contractors.
“They’re really important to us, and we always tell them that they’re as important to us as they say we are to them. I remember walking down the hall and meeting one of the contractors, and he said to me, ‘I really want to thank you for this. It’s not about more paperwork; you’re doing this because you care.’”
Namerind also carries out regular safety inspections of its properties.
The company has learned many lessons and best practices about safety in the housing industry, and they don’t stay quiet about them.
“At conferences across Canada, I talk about our safety program and talk about the importance of it,” Robert says.
STARS Air Ambulance
It’s just common sense: you can’t help someone else who’s suffered an injury if you are risking injury yourself. That’s why Mike Lamacchia from STARS Air Ambulance says safety is part of their core values.
“Seeing first-hand safety incidents in the community and understanding the impact of the patients we transport and their families, that brings a greater understanding of the importance of health and safety to our team.”
“The STARS brand is our reputation and a big part of our brand is our culture of health and safety, so growing appreciation of engagement of all team members is important, and this has been created over time.”
As part of the aviation industry, STARS must comply with very high levels of safety prevention as well as stringent record-keeping, Mike says.
“We’ve developed operational checklists for our crews. We have standard operating procedures and very sophisticated process, along with workplace standards to deal with unsafe environments.”
“We use a tool called IRIS which stands for integrated risk information system and that logs all our reports and our actions so we have a historical record of incidences.”
STARS commitment to its employees’ well-being extends beyond safety to the health side, particularly mental health which can be a key concern for rescue workers.
The improvements that STARS has seen from these efforts extend well beyond Saskatchewan since the information is shared with STARS operations in Manitoba and Alberta as well as with air ambulance operators across Canada.
STARS also takes a proactive approach to health and safety through a range of community engagements.
“We take our mobile education unit out to various communities across the province to enhance their skills in clinical care,” Mike says.
“We also promote safety through various social media. We regularly offer safety tips on our social media channels. We have a hashtag #VIP, which stands for very important patients. These posts feature events or incidents that occurred where STARS had to be called in and show how to avoid similar ones.”
Aggressive Drilling Ltd.
For Bud Chisholm at Aggressive Drilling Ltd., safety is all about protecting his company’s most valuable assets.
“For us, I think the most important asset to any company is the people the company employs, so protecting that asset should always be the top priority. And that’s community-wide. We want to be recognized as that group that’s doing everything we can, whether it’s at work or as well back home.”
Achieving that goal starts with communication, Bud says.
“We’re constantly talking. We have safety meetings on a daily basis, twice a day actually.”
The company follows through with training that’s as aggressive as its drilling.
“We offer refresher training, new employee training, all those things that are very important for our guys to feel confident in everything that they’re doing,” Bud says.
This represents an important shift from the mentality in the past, Bud notes.
“With our veteran guys, myself included, a lot of these things weren’t talked about in the past. There wasn’t that awareness before. So, there this isn’t a switch that just goes on and off once your safety boots are laced up. It extends far beyond that to every aspect of our lives.”
In spite of working in an industry with many hazards, Bud says the company is seeing results from its approach.
“We’re finding fewer incidents and near misses. We’re finding that with the communication, talking about things, we’re staying on top of things as best we can in all the things that we’re doing.”
Just as important – perhaps more important – Bud notes that employees are taking their workplace safety values home with them.
“Practices like hazardous materials storage extend to storing cleaning products away from children. Or doing your lawn without eye protection on and proper clothing. These are the things that can go south in a really big hurry. And when it’s that constant thing that we’re doing at work and they know we’re trying to make that happen, you find yourself doing those things at home.”
Large Employer Category
Saskatchewan Research Council
When it comes to health and safety at the workplace, they’re doing a lot of things correctly at Saskatchewan Research Council.
Led by president and CEO Laurie Schramm, it is a finalist for a Mission: Zero Award for the second consecutive year.
“I’ve been working long enough to know what it’s like and what it feels like to work in an unsafe environment,” Schramm said. “I’ve been around long enough to see employees and coworkers get injured on the job. I even saw an employee die on the job. Those things really leave an impact on how easy it can be for someone to hurt at work doing something similar to what they do every single day. It can happen when you least expect it… and those incidents really stick with you.”
“Employees health and safety has always been the most important thing. Our company is doing really important work for our province… but I don’t think anything is more important than keeping everyone safe and healthy. That comes first.”
There are highly hazardous areas at SRC where staff work with a nuclear reactor and various chemicals and biohazards. In those areas, safe practices need to be second nature.
It was the little thing, according to Schramm, that were being overlooked. Things like slips and falls from water on the floor or trips over equipment that was out of place. Schramm learned these accidents were caused by employees rushing to complete a job or meet a deadline.
“We all believe that safety should come first, but there were parts of our company’s culture that tended to think that meeting our clients’ needs and deadlines maybe came first.”
In 2004, a new strategy was implemented that aimed at empowering employees so they could put safety and occupational health as top priority. This resulted in some projects missing deadlines or losing some projects altogether. It also meant added spending for proper training and equipment.
“Our executive team has been trying to get out and demonstrate that we do care about employees’ well being,” Schramm said. “It’s not just something the communications team or a lawyer said we should do. This definitely is not a fad. It’s something we’re doing for the long haul.
The next challenge was sharing that attitude beyond the workplace.
Not wanting to intrude on employees’ personal lives, Schramm said SRC encouraged workplace discussions to find out what was wanted.
Already in place was an employee family assistance program to help both employees and their families for physical and mental health. Adding to that, SRC offered annual influenza immunizations.
As well, employees often use tools from the workplace for home projects. Employee recognition gifts are safety-related, such as first aid kits or vehicle rescue tools. It also held safety contests.