Canada’s Safest Employers awards gala recognizes safety excellence from coast to coast
In order to have an award-winning safety culture, safety has to be done with people, not to them, says Alan Quilley, president of Safety Results in Sherwood Park, Alta. In fact, he says that the secret to safety success is high levels of employee engagement.
“People who do the work need to own safety,” he says. “And what do you get out of that? Outstanding safety performance.”
Quilley was the keynote speaker at the ninth annual Canada’s Safest Employers awards gala on Oct. 22 in Toronto. The event kicked off with a cocktail reception with a live band, followed by a gala dinner and awards presentation, concluding with an after-party for the winners.
To encourage high levels of employee engagement, Quilley encouraged the 300 guests in the room to seek feedback from their employees on safety.
“If they tell you it’s safe, it’s safe. If they tell you they have some concerns, listen to those concerns and change things,” he says. “Do safely differently; do it logically.”
Fortunately, the 30 winning companies of Canada’s Safest Employers award seem to be doing this already. Niagara Casinos, which won more awards than any other organization this year (four in total), is always looking for opportunities to grow, so it regularly asks employees how it can do better, says Jessica Butera, safety and prevention co-ordinator at the entertainment and gaming establishment in Niagara Falls, Ont.
“Taking the time to listen to employees’ needs has truly been the key to our success,” she says.
Bob Palmer, vice-president of safety, quality and environment at Jazz Aviation, headquartered in Dartmouth, N.S., empowers his employees to think of themselves as safety leaders. He says safety is the foundation for building a business and a culture, it has the power to drive change and align values, it inspires innovation and collaboration and it has the power to unite us.
“As safety leaders, it’s our job to provide a connection to each employee. Connect what they do and how they do it with why they do it safely,” he says. “That’s transformational leadership and that’s safety leadership.”
At Michelin Pictou County in Nova Scotia, employee engagement is exhibited by the fact that employees not only watch out for themselves but for each other as well, says Joe Edens, plant manager.
“It’s their attention and unwavering focus on safety that makes great moments like this possible,” he said, while accepting the gold award for manufacturing.
Bill Borger, president and CEO of Borger Group of Companies in Rocky View County, Alta., knows his company has a great safety culture when he looks at how many workers have encouraged their family members to work for him. Borger Group is the winner of the gold award for Canada’s Best Health + Safety Culture award, presented by Levitt-Safety and Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, as well as a silver award winner in the building and construction category.
“More than 50 per cent of the field team is related to someone else from another generation who worked for Borger in the field as well, and it’s that team that’s inspired the family culture in our organization,” he says.
In his keynote address, Quilley made the point that all organizations are different, with different people, equipment and hazards. He stressed the importance of organizations doing safety in a way that works for them.
“You can’t cookie-cutter this and deliver safety like a pizza. It doesn’t work. You have to do it yourself,” he says.
He reminded attendees that success is messy and it’s not a straight line. Some initiatives won’t work out so well, while some things will work better than others.
“Strive for safety excellence and constant improvement and no so much this idea of perfection,” he says.
With a pace of change that is so rapid in society today, it’s all the more important that employers do not become complacent with their safety efforts.
“There’s a lot of people talking about safety differently… What we know for sure is it’s changing all the time; it’s constantly changing,” says Quilley. “And change is inevitable, but the rate of change, my God!”
Several award winners stressed the fact that safety is a never-ending journey, including Marcelo Lu, president of BASF Canada, which won gold in the chemistry category.
“Safety is something that is an infinite game; it never ends. It’s something you always need to continue to work on,” he says, adding that “once you achieve that excellence, where you feel you are in that excellence space, you really only compete with yourself at the end of the day.”
For the complete list of winners and more information on the awards process, visit safestemployers.com.