Games, mobile app keep workers engaged at Borger

Company wins gold in building and construction category of Canada's Safest Employers awards

Games, mobile app keep workers engaged at Borger

At the Borger Group of Companies, one of the big projects this year has been to ensure everyone understands the company’s policy on cannabis.

“That’s one thing we see as a major potential risk area for our company: When people think ‘legal’ means it’s allowed on the job site,” says Bill Borger, president and CEO of the Calgary-based construction company.

Borger Group developed three mandatory online courses on cannabis awareness. The course for field workers seeks to drive home the message that no worker can be under the influence of drugs (even if for medical use) and operate machinery. It reminds workers of their obligation to refuse work if they suspect a colleague is impaired. They can “play” their S.O.S. (Speak Out for Safety) card, requiring the supervisor to shut down a work site. Courses for foremen and supervisors explain how to recognize and test for impairment. Anyone who tests within a set limit is considered impaired.

“Now, we’ve curbed that one, and our guys are all educated,” Borger says.

The Borger App is the central hub for safety communication and education. After downloading the app onto their personal and corporate phones, all 410 employees can receive the Borger Broadcast, a weekly broadcast from the CEO. The broadcast reinforces safety messages and often draws attention to a safety hot topic; for example, an incident that’s trending. The winners of the company’s various safety awards are also announced on the Borger Broadcast.


Through the app, workers can access Borger University, where they find their online courses in safety, environment and operational best practices. When a course is done, they get a certificate of completion, credits towards Borger’s internal degree, a master and doctor of construction and, sometimes, monetary rewards. The safety team can use the app to send out impromptu training courses. An alert prompts workers to follow a link to Borger University and watch a training video, which may be followed by an exam, on how to use a new piece of equipment. Borger University plays a big role in creating the company culture, says Hassan Hussein, safety manager.

“We call it the Borger ideology or the Borger way of life,” he says.

In addition to training on safety, courses cover a range of topics on company values, from personal behaviour to the environment.

To standardize training for equipment operators, Borger Group introduced an equipment operator licensing program. No person can run a machine without a proficiency licence. First, the worker takes a 45-minute online training course. Then, the worker and instructor go out on the job and perform a proficiency test to see at what level the worker is able to perform. Workers are assigned responsibilities based on skills. As their skills grow, they are assigned more complicated tasks and their proficiency licence is updated.

“That licence is a ‘live’ document,” Hussein says, explaining supervisors can access the licence and know exactly which tasks a worker can and cannot be asked to perform. “That’s really helping reduce incidents on the job site.”

To promote mentorship, all workers have a sticker on their hard hats indicating through a colour-coded system how many years they have been at Borger.

To keep workers engaged in safety, Borger Bucks are always up for grabs for safety participation and achievements. Workers can redeem them for gift cards, event tickets and safety gear.

At the annual Innovation Fair, workers can showcase their ideas on approaching existing challenges with new solutions. This year, four of the winning submissions were related to safety. The winners are awarded scholarships, cash prizes and trophies.

“If you want to make safety part of your culture, make it fun,” Borger says.