Thunder Bay Hydro landed a prestigious provincial award for its recent safety record. The President’s Award from the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association was awarded to the utility in August for achieving 250,000 consecutive hours of work without lost time injury.
“Safety is our focus; we have a target for zero injuries,” said Amy Kembel, manager of safety and training at Thunder Bay Hydro. “We simply don’t want anyone getting hurt at work.”
It took the company just over one year for its 135 employees to accumulate the quarter million hours without a lost time injury. Kembel said that number is symbolic of the fact that zero is achievable.
“We did well and have over 592 days total without lost time injury since January 2012,” she said. “And we’ve done even better in the past with up to 1,272 consecutive days, so zero is achievable.”
How did they do it? Kembel narrowed it down to three main factors: The first being leadership support from the board of directors, the president, and the executive management team who oversee the implementation of a robust safety management system.
“Our president’s performance is measured on safety…and our president (Robert Mace) is regularly out on job sites relating to employees and building relationships around safety,” Kembel explained. “Our board of directors also receives a quarterly report which keeps it up to date on any issues and progress within the safety management system.”
Employee involvement has been another key to their success. “We involve employees at every opportunity.”
The company has various committees that meet throughout the year to focus on safety initiatives.
The next event is a lunch in October to educate employees on preventing muskuloskeletal disorders (MSDs). Mace said safety is the company’s top priority. “Everyone knows that the product we handle can be very dangerous. Ensuring the safety of our employees and the public is the most important thing we do.
“The commitment of our employees has been critical to the development of our safety management system… their efforts have helped to secure a work environment where everyone goes home safe and healthy at the end of the day,” Mace said.
Also, employees are actively encouraged to give their input into meeting agendas, and at all safety and information meetings.
Staff is asked to identify the hot-button issues which are addressed internally if they are specific to the company’s operation.
As well, Thunder Bay Hydro brings in speakers focusing on wellness issues. Safety education comes hand-in-hand with training initiatives. Kembel said Thunder Bay Hydro offers an extensive training program that includes legislated training and mandatory courses that are not legislated. They also raise the bar by offering “recommended” and “requested” training courses.
For example, the average trades person receives extensive training in the first quarter of each year when the ground is frozen. Standard training would include courses like First Aid/CPR and defensive driving. They go above the legislated requirements by training all employees in joint health and safety committee Certification Level 1 and by offering standard first aid to all employees.
The third key factor, which Kembel said led to the award, is the company’s dedication to the continual improvement of its safety management system.
Kembel said the programs are constantly changing, as are policies, procedures and training needs.
She and her team devote much of their time to ensuring those policies and procedures are updated.
For example, a hazard identification and risk assessment is conducted to identify and rank possible hazards and to ensure that controls are in place to prevent or negate the probability and severity of injury.
Above all, Kembel said she hopes this award “will inspire others to realize that zero lost time injuries is achievable.” Her advice to workplaces is to diligently follow the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. “Take the time to ensure you and your employees fully understand the legislation. It is our legal and moral obligation.
“Our culture is one where the job is done safely or not at all. We are committed to safety,” Kembel said. “The bottom line is that we want everyone to go home to their families and have good quality of life.”