From managing growth to starting an 'off-the-chart' driver training program, Kieran Foley reflects on almost three decades in safety
Having worked in the occupational health and safety field for nearly three decades, Kieran Foley is something of an icon. Now, as Director of Health and Safety at McDougall Energy, Foley reveals to OHS that he somewhat accidentally fell into the sector.
“I've been in this field now for nearly 27 years,” he tells OHS. “As for my schooling, I graduated out of Lake Superior State University in Michigan. My background is in the Natural Sciences with a minor in French, so I sort of stumbled into this career – beginning with a company called Georgia Pacific Flakeboard.”
Here, Foley stepped into the role of safety coordinator. This position marked the inception of his journey into policy development, compliance, training and all the pieces that create a world class H&S program.
“I don't like to use the word enforcement, but compliance plays a large role in any health and safety program he explains. “
After several fulfilling years, Foley was approached by Darren McDougall of McDougall Energy. Despite the company’s smaller stature at the time, Foley took a leap of faith and accepted the challenge to build a safety program to suit the needs of a rapidly growing organization.
“Years later, I'm still with him,” he explains. “We’ve gone from a one man show to a Health and Safety department - now I have several corporate managers under me who oversee different regions within the province for our retail and operation facilities.”
Under Foley’s leadership, McDougall Energy experienced significant growth, expanding from a handful of employees to over 900. Foley and his team worked diligently to develop comprehensive policies, standard operating procedures, and a web-based platform to track everything from incidents, meetings, job observations to inspections. Transparency and continuous improvement became the cornerstones of their approach.
“We built a really strong behavioural based safety program within McDougall Energy,” he explains. “All of which is was originally in conjunction with Imperial Oil.” McDougall Energy has taken this program to a new level with over 1300 driver observations conducted in 2023.
In an industry where hiring the right drivers is both crucial and challenging, McDougall Energy also initiated a driver services group. This department manages the training programs to equip their people with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their roles safely.
“Our driver training program is really off the chart now,” he tells OHS. “These folks ran with the program, and we've actually developed a series of videos professionally done for all related tasks to driving and fuel delivery.”
The innovative use of videos featuring their own drivers and trucks enhanced relatability and reception among staff, addressing the challenges of training, and ensuring compliance. However, with the introduction of dashcams in the trucks and increased field observations came some scepticism from drivers. And yet, the tangible benefits and the protection it offered outweighed the initial discomfort.
“There was a little bit of pushback from that,” admits Foley. “The initial perception was it’s a bit like having Big Brother watching you all the time. Because not only are my H&S managers out in the field observing them physically, but with most of our trucks equipped with dashcam we are able to take that information and present it to them during their monthly safety meetings.” The visual from incidents or infractions caught on the dashcam footage helps in driving the message across to our drivers.
As McDougall Energy continues to grow and acquire new entities, Foley and his team are focused on the continuous development of safety programs, as well as ensuring that training evolves to adapt to the challenges of the industry today and tomorrow.
Safety, innovation, and adaptability have been instrumental in navigating the challenges and successes at McDougall Energy. The company’s journey, under Foley’s guidance, reflects a story of growth, learning, and a relentless pursuit of excellence in occupational health and safety. And, looking ahead to the coming months, Foley says that’s set to continue.
"There's always a challenge out there for us,” he tells OHS. “As we grow as a company, our exposure becomes greater and greater – so too do the hazards, especially as we're exposed to the public. That's a challenge. For us, it's about continuing to grow the team, both from a professional standpoint, but also in terms of the tools they have in the field.
“But we're definitely not finished growing.”