Company wins gold in young worker safety category of Canada's Safest Employers awards
Young people love technology. It’s a fact. They grew up with the Internet and most of them can’t remember a time before cellphones. Pronghorn Controls knows this, so given the fact that 18 per cent of its workers are under the age of 25, it introduced mobile-friendly safety software many years ago. Workers can conduct inspections of vehicles, equipment and tools as well as complete leading indicator reporting, such as near misses and hazard IDs, all on their smartphones. The program has a participation rate of around 90 per cent.
“I always have my phone on me or nearby, so it makes it very easy to take two minutes and fill out those documents,” says Logan Ironside, 23, who started at Pronghorn at age 18. “And it opens your eyes to see more hazards because you don’t have to worry about that paperwork and hours of filling out sheets… And you don’t end up putting it off until later or forgetting about it.”
Pronghorn’s Personal Safety Intervention program empowers workers to engage in conversations about improving safety — with anyone from the president of the company to a first-year apprentice — and ask questions. The program also empowers them to intervene if they see anyone working in a manner that appears unsafe. Young workers are an especially important component to this program because they have a different outlook than the more experienced workers.
“A young worker might be able to see something that somebody who’s been there doing it for 15 years wouldn’t be able to see. They’ve seen it over and over again, you become complacent, but now you have new sets of eyes and different ways of thinking,” says Ironside.
In order to engage new employees in Pronghorn’s safety culture, the president and CEO sends each new hire a personal, handwritten letter. The letter, along with a copy of the company’s safety policies and core values, is sent to their home address, so it can be shared with their family — which parents of young workers particularly appreciate.
“Families feel their son or daughter is now in good capable hands of a company that cares for their employees,” says Vince Johansson, manager of quality, health, safety and environment.
These family members are often kept top of mind at the work site through Pronghorn’s Why We Work Safe board, which displays photos of family members, friends, pets, souped up trucks and ski boats — anything that motivates the workers to stay safe on the job.
“This campaign works very well, and people are thinking about their family before they take a sidestep or short cut,” says Johansson.
Pronghorn works hard to cultivate a culture that does not tolerate bullying or harassment. In the early ‘90s when Johansson first started in the trades, it was common practice to make jokes at the expense of others, but fortunately, the industry is changing.
“It is a lot more comforting coming to work knowing you’re not going to get made fun of,” says Ironside. “There’s other ways to have fun or lighten the mood at work.”
While he is still just 23, Ironside takes pride in mentoring those workers who are even younger who are coming up behind him. It’s this level of ownership for health and safety that keeps young workers safe at Pronghorn every day.
“I can come up with my own ways to teach and pass on (my safety knowledge) and make sure other young workers are safe and looked after, so their families and friends can feel confident that they’re going to be coming home at the end of the day, just as mine were.”