(Originally published in the March 2012 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal - Safety Culture feature)
A safety culture is taking root in Nova Scotia. We’ve seen a significant reduction in workplace injuries. In 1995, there were 10,515 time loss injuries in Nova Scotia. In 2010, that number dropped to 6,921.
That is real progress. Yet there are still nearly 7,000 people hurt on the job seriously enough to miss their next regular shift at work. And in the first two months of 2012, we’ve already seen seven workplace deaths. That is unacceptable.
Let’s be clear: there is much more work to do. The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia believes that every single injury is avoidable. We can’t stop focusing on workplace injury prevention.
It is individuals at work that make the decisions that determine whether they and their colleagues go home uninjured to their families at the end of the day.
We all need to recognize that…
• Safety is a team effort: Workplaces become safe when everyone — from top management to frontline workers — share a commitment to safety.
• Safety is a value: Safe workplaces happen when safe practices become part of an organization’s DNA. It goes beyond policies and procedures written on paper to become a core value shared by everyone in the organization.
• Safety is a right: Everyone has a role to play in staying safe. They have the right to know about workplace hazards, the right to participate in making their job safe and healthy, and the right to refuse unsafe work.
• Safe workplaces are productive workplaces: Time is of the essence, but taking dangerous shortcuts leads to injury. And injury not only hurts people, it hurts productivity.
The progress we’ve seen in Nova Scotia is thanks to the hard work of many groups and individuals — safety associations, industry associations, government departments, labour groups and people from one end of Nova Scotia to the other.
We can’t stop now. We are seeing the beginning of a safety culture, and that’s good news. But it also means that we need to work harder to instill that safety mindset more broadly, to ensure that a workplace safety culture takes root, grows and flourishes in Nova Scotia.
Spotlight on Safety Excellence:
Edmonds Landscape and Construction Services Limited
Edmonds Landscape and Construction Services Limited has made safety a cornerstone of its operations.
In working toward its goal of “zero accidents/injuries — each and every hour, day, month and year”, the company has implemented an internal responsibility system.
With the help of employees, Edmonds designed safe work practices and safe job procedures specifically relating to the company and each of the services and equipment it provides. At any point in time, an employee can review, edit or update the documents, which are then reviewed by the health and safety committee.
Edmonds maintains a philosophy of continuous improvement regarding its safety program. Its demonstrated commitment has earned the company a reputation for excellence when it comes to instilling a true safety culture in its business.
Irving Shipbuilding Inc.
Irving Shipbuilding’s Halifax Shipyard recognized it needed a new approach and a tighter focus to reduce injury rates in its operations.
The safety department, working with the company’s continuous improvement team, investigated the impact of injuries. Recognizing they could reduce injuries and costs by improving safety performance, the company expanded its safety team from four to eight.
A core part of Irving Shipbuilding’s safety transformation was to increase the level of training in the yard. The company trained over 800 employees in 4,900 hours with sessions covering confined space entry, fall protection, manlift, forklift, crane slinger, and ventilation training, just to name a few.
Communications has been another core component of the company’s safety transformation, with flatscreen TVs installed in lunchrooms and a corporate SharePoint site delivering safety messages and reminders as well as audits of weekly communications meetings. Irving Shipbuilding hired communications specialists to help with internal communications regarding safety and other opportunities.
The company has worked closely with its union to develop these initiatives and they have played a key role in its safety transformation. Irving Shipbuilding has seen a significant reduction in the frequency of lost time incidents and medical aids at its Halifax Shipyard. This reduction is expected to continue as the company expands its model of increased safety advisors, preventive education, and integration of disability management.
Sobeys views its safety programs as a partnership with many groups, from its staff and management to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, Department of Labour and Advanced Education, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and others. They work together to create a “safety first” atmosphere throughout Sobeys’ operations.
The company has an extensive occupational health and safety (OH&S) audit program. This audit includes a 518-point review done in all locations at least once per year. Sobeys has also developed a two-day training program for all of its joint occupational health and safety (JOHS) committee members.
Like many businesses, musculoskeletal injury is the most common injury suffered by employees at Sobeys. To specifically address these types of injuries, the company developed a comprehensive employee guide to avoiding them.
Celebrating safety performance is big at Sobeys. Every year the company chooses a “safety store of the year” from each district in Atlantic Canada. Each winner receives a trophy and a cash donation for its social committee. As well, stores that receive 100 per cent on their OH&S audit also receive a trophy and the JOHS committee is treated to a meal at a restaurant of their choice. In the first year of the award, two stores scored 100 per cent. Last year, the fourth year for the award, that increased to 15 stores.
*Read more "Safety Culture" feature stories at: http://www.ns.dailybusinessbuzz.ca/Industry-Spotlight/Safety-Culture-22697