Vancouver Airport Authority: Transportation 2015

Vancouver Airport Authority (VAA) is always looking for ways to engage its 440 employees in safety and keep safety messages interesting. One recent series of posters had a very personal touch.

“We put out a call among our employees for volunteers and asked them to bring their families in. And we had photographers, who created great pictures of employees and their families for the posters,” says Kevin Hong, manager of health and safety at the organization, which manages the Vancouver International Airport.

The posters, which had such captions as “I want my daddy to come home safe,” had two kinds of messages, one promoting physical safety, the other promoting healthy living.

“We have these posters set up throughout the employee areas. It’s really powerful messaging,” says Hong.

VAA’s three-tiered training program, the result of collaboration between its occupational health and safety experts and maintenance employees, ensures all aspects of training are covered.

The first level of training requires trainees to read documentation and complete computer-based training modules. At the second tier, trainees receive practical, instructor-led training: they get into the equipment, for example, and are lowered into confined spaces. The next level involves competency-based evaluations.

“The supervisor is talking with the maintenance worker: ‘Show me how you don and doff the equipment.’ ‘Take me through what the hazards are.’ And they can do a quick assessment there,” Hong says. “If anything needs improvement, they can do it right there. And it also provides positive reinforcement.”

Craig Richmond, president and CEO, points to the President’s Award for Safety Excellence as an event VAA has run for several years to keep employees engaged. Departments set goals for OHS and, at year’s end, the joint health and safety committee selects winners in different categories, and a celebration dinner is held.

“It’s probably become one of the most popular contests and events. It’s all in good humour between the departments, but there definitely is a sense of rivalry,” says Richmond.

VAA’s wellness program has a 97 per cent participation rate, Richmond says. The organization promotes wellness because it believes employees who are fit and well are less likely to get injured or make mistakes due to fatigue. Even at the end of the day, Richmond adds, employees often take part in some kind of exercise — core fitness, boot camp, yoga lessons — that VAA offers.