Keeping millions safe at Morguard

Morguard Investments Limited is the gold winner in the retail and services category for the 2013 Canada's Safest Employers Awards.

Being accountable for the safety of not only 1,400 employees but also millions of tenants, retail vendors, shoppers and office workers calls for a cohesive approach to administering safety policies and procedures.

In addition to its own real estate assets worth $13 billion, Morguard Investments in Mississauga, Ont., manages 53 million square feet of commercial space for malls, office buildings and other businesses across Canada, as well as 14,000 multi-unit residential suites.

Such diversity poses immense challenges for “getting everyone working from the same page,” according to Suman Bhasker, national manager of health, safety and security at Morguard.

Challenges include complying with varying provincial safety rules and following industry best practices for a range of clients and far-flung properties.

Morguard’s solution was to establish a corporation-wide safety framework comprising four key elements:

• internal audits
• properties’ self-assessment of occupational health and safety programs
• online training
• rewards and recognition.

This formula clearly struck the right balance. Between 2010 and 2012, reportable workplace injuries dropped from 16 to three. Compliance with the corporation’s policies and procedures — which go beyond legislated requirements — rose from 60 per cent to 85 per cent.

A critical factor in Morguard’s success is meaningful communications that resonate with disparate groups.

“What convinces one person to work safely may not work for another, so we must get messages out in a variety of ways,” says Bhasker. “Everyone needs to buy in to the importance of safety and the need to share responsibility.”

For example, tenants of a 20-storey building may wonder why they have to evacuate regularly for fire drills, while a business might want to see the return on its safety investment.

John May, Morguard’s director of risk management and insurance, points out that easily accessible electronic communications are vital to unifying safety across the board. A comprehensive online library allows employees and committees to access massive amounts of information for training and daily use.

Regular emails keep OHS committees and supervisors at all properties informed and updated.

“Integrated communications ensure that safety isn’t something that employees and clients (only) do outside their jobs. Rather, they help ingrain safety in everyday processes,” says May.

Cementing Morguard’s safety philosophy are good policies and procedures.

“Our company president signs off on all policies,” says May. “And that relays the message that safety is our first priority and we all share responsibility.”