High risk, high safety at Nordion

Nordion is the gold winner in the manufacturing category for the 2013 Canada's Safest Employers Awards.
As a nuclear facility, Nordion regards safety as a leading priority, says Scott McIntosh, COO for speciality isotopes.

“Operating a business like ours, which is high risk, rests on placing environmental health and safety considerations at the top of the list,” he says. “They are fundamental to our success as a business. They underlie everything we do.”

Nordion, which specializes in nuclear medicine, has a safety system founded on its environment, health and safety policy, says Tammy Scantlebury, occupational health specialist.

It commits them to follow ALARA, a standard of maintaining risk “as low as reasonably achievable.” Safety programs also undergo regular assessment by the EHS committee to ensure they remain effective.

Managers at the Ottawa-based company involve employees in the completion of departmental job hazard analysis and risk assessments. Moreover, when a work process is being created or re-designed, those employees who will be working with the new system are asked to help review the proposed design.

“We hope employees can bring forth ideas to ensure the new process is designed with the end user in mind,” says Scantlebury.

At the beginning of each year, managers and workers set safety targets and discuss activities aimed at areas to be improved. These targets and activities are part of all 421 employees’ performance appraisals.

“So we have a set of activities built into our objectives every year that are intended to continually improve the outcomes in particular health and safety areas,” McIntosh says.

Workers are updated regularly about the company’s safety goals and initiatives at weekly and monthly team meetings. Making safety a focus of these meetings, which bring together managers and employees who work together daily, is the most effective way to communicate about health and safety, McIntosh says.

Nordion’s main communication channel with employees is its intranet site. By clicking on the EHS tab, employees can read about health and safety policies, monthly outcomes, safety results, health and safety committee meeting minutes and about issues such as radiation safety, training programs and emergency response, Scantlebury says.

More information is available in a monthly newsletter, NEWSS 4 You (Nordion’s Environmental, Wellness, Security and Safety). Each issue includes an OHS-related puzzle, and those who complete and submit it are eligible for a prize.

“It’s kind of a fun way to get employees to read it,” she says.

Nordion believes safety is the responsibility of all employees, McIntosh says. But it’s important for those at the top to emphasize safety, too.

“We see a great deal of the EHS programs,” he says. “As an executive team, we believe it’s our role to set the tone for how important it is.”