Safety is about understanding what drives and motivates people

Connecting with workers is critical part of job, says safety director

Safety is about understanding what drives and motivates people

Julianne Da Re, Director of Safety, Health and Environment – Canada, AECOM, thrives on collaborating and connecting with others. “I like working with people to change a culture ,” she says.

Da Re is also the company’s Organizational Resilience Lead for Canada and it's a role that encapsulates her favourite part of her job, which is “dealing with people, and making the organization more resilient – especially in these changing times".

“I have always had an interest in human performance,” she explains.

Da Re’s schooling started with kinesiology, as she was always interested in how the body moves. At the suggestion of a colleague during a placement while at university, Da Re built an interest in how human performance is impacted in a work environment:

“Working as an ergonomist I was able to see how the worker’s performance was impacted if their job wasn’t designed for them. As an ergonomist the door opened the way to a broader career in health and safety.”

Understanding workers’ behaviours and attitudes plays a huge part in building a more resilient safety culture. Safety is about “understanding people better and finding what motivates and drives people to work safe.”  She explains that workers need to be educated on what can happen to their quality of life if they don’t work safely.

In her career, Da Re says some of her biggest challenges have been changing behaviours and shifting a culture.

“It’s a constant, uphill battle. It takes a long time and requires a lot of patience. But you need to celebrate the small wins,” she says. “You have to be able to know how to measure that, and celebrate those small successes, because changing a culture can take years. But when you see the change in behaviours, that gives you a lot of satisfaction.”

Another challenge is how to drive accountability, especially in large organizations, “because you can train all you want, you can educate on what needs to happen, but at the end of the day it has to be leaders in the organization who drive the culture in an organization.

Leaders must hold themselves accountable so that they can push that accountability down into organization. That’s not an easy feat,” says Da Re.

These are skills that Da Re brings to her organization, where workers are encouraged to share safety moments at the start of every safety meeting or gathering. “This is about people sharing stories”, she says, “if they make it personal, and share something that’s happened to them, that message  becomes more impactful.”

“We want to hear those stories, because we know there isn’t a nine to five job anymore. And if someone gets hurt at home, it will impact their ability to continue to work,” says Da Re. “Life at home or at work ---we want you to be safe everywhere.”

“Wellness is something that isn’t  nine to five either, therefore our wellness program has shifted to focus on what you do outside of work for your wellness,” she says.

To help promote wellness within the organization, AECOM has an incentive-based wellness program which gives people points for different wellness activities.

Lastly, connecting with workers is hugely important, says Da Re:

“We keep pushing the importance of just connecting, especially during the pandemic. [AECOM] has a strategy on remote working, and being able to work where it suits you”

The downside of the pandemic is that the boundaries of what the workday looks like get blurred and, Da Re says it’s really important to promote the necessity to disconnect.”