Tse has been successful in overcoming the old 'cowboy attitude' towards safety at his organization
Mark Tse is the director of engineering, environment, health and safety at UFA Co-operative in Calgary where he has worked for 16 years. He serves as the chairman of the Petroleum Tank Management Association of Alberta and as a director of the Alberta Association for Safety Partnerships, a Certificate of Recognition (COR) certifying body. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with family, travelling and skiing. He holds a P.Eng certification.
Q. What has been your biggest safety-related challenge so far in your career?
A. Influencing the culture. UFA is from an agricultural background and is rooted in a cowboy attitude of just “getting it done.” Health and safety really wasn’t part of the conversation, but those times have changed. Our senior management helped lead the change and are driving the health and safety culture we have today. A portion of the company’s bonus pool is based on health and safety performance, and all workers have a portion of their own individual performance assessment based on health and safety targets unique to themselves or their facility. Every quarter, I meet with senior management and operational directors to discuss, develop and adjust action plans involving health and safety. Things like installing AEDs at all of our stores or having all directors complete first-aid training seem like small things but would never have been considered five years ago.
Q. How did you get into health and safety and why?
A. A bit by accident really. My area of responsibility was engineering and construction. With a reorganization in the company, I took over responsibility of the environment, health and safety department. A few years later, the safety manager position was eliminated, and I took over the manager’s responsibilities. Once I was into it, I found it very rewarding to see less people getting hurt and influencing the company’s safety culture to continuously improve.
Q. How does your engineering background help you with your ohs responsibilities?
A. Being educated as an engineer teaches you how to think logically, see the facts and act on those facts. I am always looking at the analytics and developing action plans to influence and improve our performance. I think from a risk-based perspective I consider what can be done, what can be achieved and what a realistic timeline will be to ensure it is really accepted and embedded. The other big advantage is being able to look at the engineering and construction aspects to consider safety during design.
Q. What takes up the most of your time?
A. Safety takes up about 60 per cent of my time. The rest is engineering and environmental functions. Both synergize well with health and safety in areas of facility design and maintenance, and in the case of environment emergency response where spills and releases of fuel and chemicals are involved.
I also constantly look at ways for me, my team and the company to be more effective and efficient. For instance, operations implemented a behavioural-based safety program a few years ago that proved far too time consuming and heavy-handed; it just didn’t match the company’s capabilities. The program content itself was good; it was just the delivery. We re-designed the program to align with our company and have experienced great success, strongly influencing how people think and act about safety at all levels in the organization.
Q. What do you like the most about being a safety professional?
A. I don’t consider myself a safety professional by any means. My team, however, is and they are who I rely on. They are the ones on the ground seeing, experiencing and interacting with workers and managers on a daily basis. My staff are health and safety advisors and are very much involved in designing strategies to sustain and improve our health and safety performance — I could not do it without their expertise and guidance. One of the things I like and dislike in safety is that, unlike engineering where I can more easily influence people in construction and design through contracts and formal agreements, safety is all about influencing people through influencing change and the culture of the company as a whole.
Q. What motivates you to do your best at work every day?
A. I have a goal to continue to make a difference in the work I do, to add value and influence those around me to do better. Health and safety, engineering and environment only exist if the business is successful, so what matters is meeting and exceeding the needs of each business unit to make their job easier to integrate health and safety into the operations.
This Q&A originally appeared in the August/September 2019 issue of COS.