Spreading the word at PowerStream

PowerStream is the gold winner in the utilities category for the 2013 Canada's Safest Employers Awards.

In June 2013, every employee at PowerStream signed a health and safety charter. But they didn’t just sign a boring piece of paper, instead, they all signed team Canada hockey jerseys that are proudly displayed throughout PowerStream workplaces.

“It’s a visual reminder that it is the responsibility of everyone to learn about safety, innovate around safety and pass on the knowledge to future generations — and take personal accountability for our safety,” says Brian Bentz, president and CEO of the Vaughan, Ont.-based electricity distribution company.

The charter is a symbol of the safety culture that is ingrained within the organization.

“Safety is the most important priority in everything we do. That goes from senior leadership right down to field workers outside,” says Bentz.

PowerStream is very active in the public school system. Teams of employees regularly speak at schools within PowerStream’s service territory of Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan in Ontario. They tackle 35 schools per year.

They teach the students about safety, electrical awareness and “what the green boxes are in front of their houses and what not to touch,” says Ken Read, director of health, safety and environmental services.

PowerStream employees also help educate the public through partnerships with the Electrical Safety Authority and the Community Powerline Safety Alliance.

“We find that when we teach and promote, it helps raise our awareness as well,” says Bentz.

To keep employees engaged, the company brings together all 546 employees for an annual heath and safety barbecue in the summer. The leadership team talks about health and safety metrics and there is always a guest speaker to discuss the importance of safety.

“We get everyone there to celebrate the achievements we’ve had in the year, the goals we’ve had,” says Bentz. “We talk about teamwork, health and wellness and how important it is to stay safe in everything you do — it’s fun but also educational.”

Last year, PowerStream’s departmental leaders conducted more than 2,400 site visits. These visits are an integral part to the company’s strategy and are key in evaluating the corporate performance, says Bentz.

“It’s showing awareness and support for the field staff… we’re looking to make sure they have their tailboard in place, all their PPE is on properly, that they’re compliant with all our policies, but really it’s a chance to talk to them about what they’re doing and about working safely,” he says.

Workers in PowerStream’s high-risk areas — such as those who work with electricity and large equipment — participate in weekly safety meetings.

“There’s more risk in the nature of the work they do,” says Read. “They work elevated at different heights, they climb poles, we work on live lines sometimes, they do a bunch of different elements and we feel more attention needs to be promoted in that area to keep them sharp.”