Pratt & Whitney Canada (Halifax): Big on safety

Pratt & Whitney Canada (Halifax): Big on safety
If you’re a plant that manufactures huge aircraft engine parts and employs more than 300 workers, six million hours without a lost-time incident is pretty impressive.

It’s an achievement that Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) attributes to a culture of employee engagement and leadership. “It’s the involvement of all employees focused on preventing incidents,” says Eric Boulé, director of environment, health and safety at P&WC, a global manufacturer of aircraft engines.
P&WC’s Halifax facility is a recipient of Canada’s Safest Employers Award. As of this writing, the 270,000-sq.-ft. production facility has gone eight whole years without a lost-time injury. The site manufactures light alloy castings and cooled turbine airfoils for most of P&WC’s line of aircraft engines, and produces sub-assemblies for the company’s PT6 engine.

P&WC’s global operations employs over 9,000 workers around the world, and has deployed more than 48,000 engines in more than 198 countries. Boulé says the Halifax site is a “good representation” of the entire company’s health and safety culture.

“Our priority is keeping our employees healthy — from hire to retirement,” he says. “It’s the short-term safety of the employee and the long-term health of the employees around the globe.”

To support this objective, the company offers numerous programs and services that are aimed at preventing health problems and promoting a healthy lifestyle. They include: an onsite medical clinic, availability of online e-doctors, general medical services, emergency health service, yearly vaccination program, and wellness assistance programs.

At P&WC Halifax, there are about 20 environmental, health and safety teams that take charge of various environmental, health and safety management issues. There is a formal program for reporting “near-hit” or near-miss incidents, which is non-punitive and provides a way for the company to analyze and learn from the incident in order to prevent any injury. In 2010, employees reported 204 near-hits  — many of these reports focused on ergonomics and risks for repetitive motion injuries from the site’s 400 pieces of equipment.

Awareness of ergonomics has, for a long time, been part of the safety culture at the Halifax facility, wrote Katherine O'Flaherty, general manager at the P&WC’s Halifax site, on the nomination form describing the company’s health and safety management system. In fact, it has been a key component of the site’s impressive safety record.

“While the industry has recently begun to place emphasis on reducing these types of injuries, it has long been a part of the culture in Halifax,” O’Flaherty writes.
A big part of the P&WC’s success was employee engagement. The workers themselves are the ones bringing up issues and concerns about health and safety, and management are acting on them in a timely manner.

The overall mandate of the management team in the P&WC Halifax operations is to ensure that employees will continue to be engaged in their safety, O’Flaherty notes.

P&WC has devised a number of ways to keep their workers engages. Every year, the company conducts an employee survey, which has been significant in getting valuable feedback from employees, says Boulé. A meeting with employees follows the survey to address their concerns and get suggestions on further ways to improve health and safety within the organization.

“One thing that we’re proud of and promoting in our facility is the active caring program, where we are encouraging each employee to look after their colleague,” Boulé says. This means, being responsible not only for their own safety, but for their co-workers as well — reporting near-misses, reminding a co-worker to put on his personal protective equipment, watching out for hazards that could harm themselves or a co-worker.

Employees are identifying risks on the shop floor, documenting “proactive observations” or a near-miss, and proposing a solution. The goal for 2011, according to Boulé, is to get at least one proactive observation per employee, globally.

“For us, it’s very key: identify and act on the risks before an incident.”