Horizon North managers constantly reinforcing safety

Company wins gold in hospitality category of Canada's Safest Employers awards

Horizon North managers constantly reinforcing safety

On their first day of work, new employees at Horizon North are told working safely is taken seriously at the Calgary-based company.

“We’re getting them aligned to what I call the ‘Horizon Way.’ We’re setting expectations to work safely,” says Bill Anderson, executive vice-president of quality, health, safety and environment.

Slips, trips and falls are a major focus at Horizon North, which has 1,400 employees. The company, which constructs large lodge facilities and provides workforce accommodation, often in remote work sites, runs an annual campaign focusing on these incidents, launching in the fall when ice becomes a danger. Year-round, it is mandatory for employees working in hospitality operations to wear food-grade, slip-resistant footwear.

Many employees work in food services and the safe use of knives is a big concern. Whether they are cutting vegetables or using a slicer, workers are required to wear the appropriate cut-resistant glove.

“It’s mandatory that employees clearly understand this requirement and we hold people to that. We had incidents in the past and now, we want to make sure we don’t,” Anderson says.


Many workers are responsible for driving other employees to and from job sites. Horizon North puts drivers through an intensive training course, which includes classroom instruction, driving simulation and obstacle course testing, says Warren Murray, senior vice-president of industrial services. All vehicles have a GPS tracking system that notifies a manager if the driver exceeds a speed limit, takes a corner too fast or accelerates or brakes too fast.

“We check all drivers’ records on a regular basis and if we find anything we’re not comfortable with, we bring the driver in, sit down and talk about it,” he says.

Horizon North also has a stringent vehicle maintenance program, and drivers are required to put on high-grade winter tires by a certain date. The journey management program includes the requirement to check in before and after every trip in the field.

In addition to basic safety training for all workers, some receive construction safety training and those working in kitchens go through food safety training. Workers also learn behaviour-based observation and all supervisors take a three-day course called Safety Essentials for Supervisors and Managers.

One key initiative is proactive intervention reporting. 

“We want to know: What can we learn from the incidents last year, so we can continuously work towards zero incidents?” Anderson says. “If we talk about near misses, for example, possibly we can learn from it.”

Managers conduct regular leadership safety audits, which consist of speaking with workers and having them explain what they do, how they can get hurt and how they mitigate those hazards, Anderson says. Managers acquire insight into workers’ safety understanding and, perhaps, need for more training. Where improvements are needed, managers and workers come up with an agreement detailing the steps the employee will take to work safer.

Managers are constantly reinforcing the message to work safely. They start meetings, both in-house and with clients, with a safety moment. They regularly visit workers in the field and meet with workers on rotation before they travel out to remote work sites.

“We have an expectation that we will keep ourselves safe and everybody in our space safe,” Murray says. “It’s who we are.”

This article originally appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of COS.