All-inclusive safety at CapitalCare

CapitalCare is the gold winner in the health care category for the 2013 Canada's Safest Employers Awards.

For 50 years, CapitalCare has prided itself in being a leader in continuing care. It was one of the first organizations in Alberta to introduce best practices for continuing care — and that includes occupational safety.

“We believe in leading rather than reacting,” says Aileen Belke, manager of safety services and claims, “And our commitment
to safety comes from the top down.”

One innovation Belke and her team introduced was adapting safety practices to ensure they work equally for residents and the organization’s 2,700 employees. She explains that in facilities such as CapitalCare’s, staff historically put resident safety above their own, often at the cost of hurting themselves.

“We do not believe that one is more important than the other,” she says. “So keeping our residents safe means keeping our staff safe.”

To that end, she changed some policies and blended others.

“CapitalCare really cares about the safety and well-being of both its staff and its residents,” adds Courtney Banman, unit clerk. “A safe work environment for employees is a safe home environment for residents.”

Belke also brought best practices in ergonomics to the organization, which is headquartered in Edmonton, since residents depend on staff to turn, move and lift them in beds and wheelchairs. The top risks for staff are neck, shoulder and back injuries, then slips and falls.

According to Belke, staff are protecting their backs better now thanks to training and consistent safety practices, so those injuries are declining.

Results show that the safety leadership initiatives are paying off for everyone. Between 2008 and 2012, the lost-time claim rate dropped 40 per cent and the disabling injury rate (combined lost time and modified work) dropped 29 per cent. In addition, workers’ compensation board premium rate rebates have been consistently more than double the minimum.

Ongoing initiatives to keep safety top of mind are also contributing to the lower injury rates. Among these are training for managers and OHS committee members that includes safe resident handling.

Ongoing communications through various print and electronic vehicles are also an important factor to keep everyone updated on safety, wellness and mental health. A staff intranet, regular monthly emails, display boards with topics for staff to discuss, and in-person meetings all keep the safety conversation going.

“Safety should be a continuous process,” says Belke. “And we believe that there’s always room for improvement.”