One Size Does Not Fit All

by Lisa McGuire, CRSP, CEO of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC –  There is no single approach to delivering occupational health and safety (OHS) within manufacturing. The Autumn Issue of our Newsletter examines some of the pros and cons of four different approaches to OHS, discusses how changes to education are being shaped to support various OHS resource solutions, addresses safety culture, and reviews a looming change in legislation that will have a major impact on the safety resource: the legalization of cannabis.

Many models exist for the OHS role: through the HR department; by combining Quality, Environmental and Health & Safety into one role; by hiring a full-time OHS professional; or assigning a senior management representative supported by external 3rd party OHS resources such as the Alliance’s Safety Program Support (SPS) program. In situations where OHS responsibilities form only a part of the employee’s responsibility, supplementary training will be essential to their success.

OHS personnel in BC endure high turnover rates. Recent studies reveal that 20% of all OHS personnel change employment each year! Government, industry, the Alliance and educational institutions such as Kwantlen and BCIT have come together to understand why this is and how to best meet industry’s needs. For many current and future OHS professionals, they will need to broaden their skills and knowledge to effectively support industry.

Regardless of the OHS model adopted by Alliance Members, achieving effective safety performance requires real commitment from senior management. Executive management defines “what is important” through their acts and decisions, thus shaping an organizational culture of prevention.

Future of OHS Education: OHS Micro-Credentialing

by Gladys Johnsen – Kwantlen Polytechnic University offers an HR concentration in its business school that includes a course on OHS as part of its curriculum. Wayne Tebb, Dean of the School of Business at Kwantlen Polytechnic University makes the observation that the traditional role of the safety officer was a white hat and clip board handing out reprimands and disciplinary measures. “That attitude is changing” he observes.

“In many companies the OHS resource is now perceived as a value-added resource with a positive impact on production, staff retention and even the bottom line.”

Finding the right OHS fit for manufacturers can be challenging however, especially if a part-time or shared OHS role is required. Given the lack of a governing body or association for safety professionals, most companies today turn to a combination of practical experience, online or classroom courses to address training needs.

“Having a full-time OHS professional is expensive, and there’s no standardized set of metrics against which to judge either a program or the safety officer. This often results in a lot of turnover, either due to companies seeking a quick fix to their injury rate, or because the safety resource pursues a firm with a stronger commitment to health and safety ” said Wayne.

Wayne foresees future OHS training based on the development of a set of competencies upon which a professional program could be designed. That complex task is being studied by a Partnership made up of government, educational institutions and the Alliance.

The concept of micro-credentialing is likely to be one solution for the future of OHS education, especially for employees fulfilling a part-time OHS role. Working in conjunction with industry associations during the development phase, these courses could include focused units led by accountants or lawyers to increase the student’s understanding of both regulation and liability. These units would be directed at the owner, HR, QA, Plant Manager or CFO, depending on where the company’s health and safety program is positioned.

“OHS training is in transition,” Wayne believes, “and no one educational or delivery model is going to work for all companies and industries.”

Safety Advisor Corner: Safety Tips for OHS Administrators

Safety Tip #1
Any individual tasked with safety within the organization should familiarize themselves with the WorkSafeBC Employer Planning Toolkit. Available on WorksafeBC’s website, the Toolkit paints an accurate picture and displays trends regarding a company’s safety performance. Reviewing these statistics allows for informed decisions on how to improve safety in the workplace as well as the cost justification for making any required changes.

Safety Tip #2
Large companies typically have a worker pool to draw from. If an employee is injured away from work, disability insurance can provide the employee with a reliable source of partial income, while alternatives often exist for the employer that can address their needs during the employee’s absence. However, for an employer with 20 workers, one employee represents 5% of their workforce. Smaller employers lacking short-term disability insurance coverage may yield to the temptation of releasing the worker due to the absence of suitable alternatives and the pressing requirement for an able-bodied person to protect the operational needs of the business.

Employers are thus encouraged to offer PPE to employees to take home for personal use. By encouraging employees to be safe in a home environment (i.e., while cutting the lawn or using a chainsaw), the risk of injury to the person is reduced, thereby helping to secure employee attendance. Offering employees the use of company PPE is good business and demonstrates concern for worker welfare both on and off the job.

Safety Tip #3
Hazard profiles for specific jobs can be used to create quick and easy job postings. If hazards of a specific role are known, then these can be included in the job description. After hiring, the hazard profile can then be used to create a training matrix. This will assist in reducing employee turnover and increasing efficiencies, since successful hires are more likely to have acquired necessary training.

Safety Culture: The cornerstone of effective organizations

by Kaushal Parikh and Paul Boileau – Many organizations with a comprehensive health and safety program wonder why they are still not performing as well as desired. A good health and safety policy is in place. All policies and procedures are implemented and properly organized in the safety manual. The Joint Health and Safety Committee meets regularly, minutes are posted and workplace inspections are completed per schedule. So why is the program still falling short?

Often, the missing ingredient is a strong safety culture. The features listed above are elements of a strong health and safety program, not of a strong safety culture. Indeed, there are major differences in the make-up of a strong safety culture and a strong health and safety program.

A strong safety culture is an atmosphere within the organization that favours safe behaviour. It must be ingrained in both the formal and informal activities of an organization. It is what happens when nobody is watching. Once employees become proud of their safety performance, they have internalized the importance of being safe. A strong safety culture is strengthened by each employee at every level of the organization.

A Strong Safety Culture Consists of Shared Beliefs, Sound Philosophy and Practices, and Patience.

Shared Beliefs
A strong safety culture requires commitment from the top. Employees must feel that senior management is genuinely committed to working safely as a core value. Safety must not be just “another thing to get done”.

Sound Philosophy and Practices
Beyond the safety program itself, demonstrating a commitment to a healthy and safe workplace includes regularly touring the shop floor, attending safety seminars and including safety as a standing item at all management and employee meetings.

Changing the way people think and feel about safety is not easy. Internal motivation needs to be instilled to ensure success. Culture change does not take place overnight; it takes years of continuous focus and hard work – a process that, once embraced, brings about lasting change.

A Strong Safety Culture Impacts Reliability, Competitiveness, Quality and Profitability

The impact of safety culture on reliability is indirect, but real and well-documented. It is reported that reliability is enhanced by three to ten times when quality improves as a result of safety culture initiatives. This is because a strong safety culture often means that workarounds and nonstandard maintenance fixes are moved up the priority list for permanent resolution. Staff become motivated as they watch the organization support efforts to address hazardous ‘temporary’ patch jobs which can drag on for months and prove cumbersome for production staff.

Although health and safety has traditionally been viewed as a non-productive expenditure demanded by legislation, studies consistently demonstrate strong correlation between a strong safety culture and profitability. Research has shown that safer and more efficient work methods lead to better quality. In the USA for example; a study done on 626 organizations revealed more efficient work methods after safety culture improvement had a direct impact on quality. Another study form the UK, conducted on the British Steel industry, demonstrated a positive correlation between safety culture improvements and quality as well as productivity.

In Summary: there is strong evidence to indicate that an effective, healthy and safety culture forms an essential element of a sound business strategy with positive effects on key performance indexes elsewhere on the factory floor.


Gain a detailed understanding of the importance of safety culture, what a strong safety culture looks like and how management can help build a positive safety culture.

In this 1 day instructor-led course, participants are taught the tools and best practices for building, measuring and analyzing their organization’s safety culture.

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OHS from the Full-time OHS Representative’s Perspective

by Gladys Johnsen – Manufacturing the bottles on-site, Nestlé Waters distributes bottled water throughout Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Since opening at its Hope location close to 20 years ago, Nestlé has experienced issues with musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) and minor incidents among its workforce of 100. Its health and safety program was originally managed by the HR Department.

According to Supply Chain Manager Kevin Thorburn, this approach resulted in “a hybrid that saw health and safety as a documentation process managing claims, rather than preventing incidents from occurring. The trend wasn’t good,”

“The increasing number of injuries was a real concern. We needed a focus on prevention, which meant creating a full-time health and safety position.” explains Kevin.

In 2010 Nestlé separated health and safety from the Human Resources Department by creating a Safety Health and Environment Resource (SHE) position, with a focus on incident prevention.

Hailing from a background in the QA department with moderate knowledge of health and safety issues, Shane Veenstra became that resource. His first action was a compliance review to identify discrepancies between WorkSafeBC regulations and Nestlé standards and to generate suitable action plans to redress deficiencies. Shane worked full-time while receiving financial support from Nestlé’s Educational Reimbursement Program to enroll in BCIT’s Occupational Health and Safety Certificate Program.

“It was a busy two years, with an intense learning curve”, says Shane, “but, when I look back at where we were and where we are now, it was worth the effort.”

With the company’s ongoing support, Shane also achieved the Canadian Registered Safety Professional designation. A full-time OHS role supported by an education plan has translated into deeper knowledge of specific health & safety issues and their solutions.

“The perception that health and safety was not top of mind for management changed when it was taken out of Human Resources,” said Shane. “ It’s a large financial and cultural commitment for a company to make; but it says to the workforce that their security is fundamental to the business’s success. When the health and safety function is shared there cannot be the same level of focus or depth of knowledge.”

Over time, Shane noticed changes in the way OHS was perceived. Workers no longer worried about their employment files when they discussed or reported risky actions. Moreover, an OHS seat at the management table made safety equal to other departments, granting input to factory decisions and direct program advocacy. Now every meeting – whether it be in the Boardroom, at a shift change, or monthly plant meetings – begins with a safety update called “Take Two for Safety”.

Being a stand-alone resource also requires that Shane’s peers understand his boundaries. While being the “go to guy”, Shane’s principal role remains that of a resource to assist front-line managers directly responsible for worker safety. Incidents are not handed off to Shane but rather, Managers receive support to get to the root cause and mount an action plan to prevent re-occurrence.

“The goal is that I will spend 70% of my time on the floor and 30% on administration” explains Shane.

By creating this resource position Nestlé has used a holistic approach to meeting its responsibilities rather than creating a health and safety silo.

Permit to Work (PTW) Station
High Risk Task Hazard Sheets & Authorized Permit Holders on staff qualified to oversee or perform those tasks.

Having a full-time professional OHS resource at Nestlé has led to innovative approaches on the shop floor.

The highest risk tasks at Nestlé are working at height, medium voltage electrical work and Mode 4 machinery interventions where guarding is removed while the machine remains energized. It is standard policy that any high hazard task only be performed if all other methods of completing the work have been considered – even if the solution requires more effort. High Risk Tasks require a work Permit – the task to be performed by qualified Permit Holders on staff.

Safety Mapping
Visual reference of potential safety hazard locations and corrective actions to be taken

Safety Maps of each assembly or process line are used by staff to identify safety risks requiring attention. Adhesive-backed hazard icons are applied to the clear film overlay to identify the hazard and describe the hazard area. Identified hazards are tagged by staff with suggestions on possible corrective actions.

SBO System allows staff to log
• Safe Behaviours “KUDOS”
• Unsafe Conditions
• Unsafe Acts/Behaviours
• Anonymous Reports

The major tool used to determine safety priorities is the Registry of Safety Hazards. This database is used in concert with a Safety Based Observation (SBO) system that allows workers to record health and safety observations, featuring over 2000 observations year-to-date. All risks are then tabulated, with the likelihood, frequency of exposure and real or potential outcomes of the activity calculated. This identifies what remedies or actions are required.

OHS from the Owner-Operator / Senior Manager’s Position

by Gladys Johnsen – Greg Anderson has been involved with Mearl’s Machine Works in Kelowna for close to 24 years as a customer, employee and partner. Mearls’ 35 employees provide shop and field repair services, production machining and equipment sales to all markets. Greg’s commitment to health and safety began with a plan to meet the regulations for working in confined spaces. Once in place, it became apparent a program covering the entire company was required.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Greg, “Mearl’s diverse sectors means addressing most sections of the regulation. Our health and safety record was already good, so employees wondered why we needed to start documenting everything.”

Greg and his partners had to learn the relevant parts of the regulation and incorporate them to have minimal impact on operations, while ensuring policies and programs were clear and consistent.

Greg sees advantages to having health and safety as part of an owner-operator’s role: direct contact with workers combined with the ability to act quickly and decisively on recommendations, with few structural hurdles.

I worked countless hours on this and it started to impact my work, home life and health.

Then one day the Alliance came knocking. The idea of a not-for-profit, industry-funded health and safety organization “appealed to me” explains Greg.

The Alliance’s Safety Program Support (SPS) provides professional expertise three days per month to assist with the development of a comprehensive OHS program.

So my partners and I agreed to approve Mearl’s becoming part of SPS. We are not large enough to support a dedicated safety officer; but this program is a clear path to creating a plan we can follow.

Greg’s health and safety advice to other owner operators of small and medium companies:

“It’s important. Don’t give up and don’t think you have to do it alone. Do it properly by learning as much as you can and get help by calling in a professional.”

OHS from the HR Manager’s Perspective

by Gladys Johnsen – Located in Vernon and employing over 150 staff, KingFisher Boats designs and builds high-quality heavy-gauge, welded sport fishing boats. Sarah Gregory came to KingFisher in 2014 as Human Resources Manager, with responsibility for the company’s health and safety program assigned afterwards. Initially, Sarah enhanced her academic and manufacturing knowledge by enrolling in health and safety-related courses at Okanagan College, WorkSafeBC, and the Alliance.

Overall, Sarah sees a good fit between health and safety and many of the core roles of human resources, such as performance management, return-to-work programs, wellness, harassment and bullying issues and job design. Health and safety can be included in the early stages of designing training and onboarding programs, along with a better understanding of what to include in a return-to-work plan.

Sarah acknowledges the risk of a perception of conflict of interest by employees who believe that coming forward to report risky behaviours or near misses could impact their employment file. However, as the injury rate fell and employees witnessed improvements in their work environment, confidence developed that reporting would be interpreted positively.

Moreover, Sarah regularly engages shop floor workers regarding safe work procedures and the company’s joint health and safety committee to ensure that policies remain relevant. The knowledge gained has increased her ability to design new or updated job descriptions and has improved Sarah’s interview and hiring skills.

This joint role is a good one for KingFisher, as I sit at the Senior Management table I am able to advocate for the health and safety program and have influence on the allocation of resources.

Sarah is now working with the Alliance to complete the OSSE certification program and interprets this as another step forward in the plan for continuous improvement of the OHS program.

KingFisher will be hiring a new human resource administrator to work together with Sarah on requirements for documentation and maintenance of both the health and safety and human resource programs. “All-in-all,” says Sarah, “each of these two roles has a positive impact on the other and reduces overlapping administrative tasks.”

OHS from the Quality Manager’s Perspective

Specific Mechanical Systems employs 75 workers in the manufacture of craft brewing and distilling systems and other stainless steel fabricated vessels for industry leaders around the globe. Starting in 2011, Specific’s business expanded to two shifts. An increase in minor worker injuries resulted from the jump in new employees to meet the rising business activity, from five in 2011 to 22 in 2013. Most injuries were caused by slips and trips or contact with machinery or equipment.

The human and financial costs arising from higher claims volume became a concern for Specific’s management team. In 2014, Specific became a member of the Alliance’s Safety Program Support (SPS), providing access to a professional advisor three days per month. In 2016, the Quality Manager, Sean Mitchell became responsible for the company’s health and safety program and began to work closely with Rosa Diaz, an Alliance SPS Coordinator.

Sean views health and safety and quality management as complementary. He can react instantly if he observes an activity which impacts either worker safety or the manufacturing process.

Putting these roles together was a conscious management decision. They wanted health and safety to be seen as having a strong, positive role in the production of quality fabricated vessels.

Sitting on the eight person management team and reporting to the General Manager allows Sean to demonstrate how improved solutions for either a health and safety or a production issue will have a positive impact on the other.

The biggest challenge for Sean is balancing competing priorities. “Good time management and analytical skills are critical,” Sean believes. “It’s a struggle; corners can’t be cut in either area.”

Cannabis in the Workplace: 2nd-hand effects of pending marijuana legislation

Bill C- 45, the Bill which legalizes cannabis, is scheduled to come into force on July 1st, 2018.

By Gladys Johnsen – According to Norm Keith, a leading defence lawyer, national expert on OHS issues, and partner with Fasken Martineau (based in Toronto), “Fewer than 30% of employers have any policy for drugs and alcohol in the workplace. So, in the main, they are not ready. There’s nothing in C-45 covering safety in the workplace.” OHS professionals and their employers need act now to examine what, if any, policies are in place and amend them to address the new legislation. Moreover, the employer needs to communicate the policy so that all workers know and understand the implication of the changes. Part of the education plan should include what the testing protocol will be and any disciplinary action that may result.

This major change represents both an opportunity and a challenge to BC’s employers as it can be combined with a comprehensive modernization of the employer’s substance abuse policies. The challenge will be to create a program which will be supported by a court system that has been very inconsistent in decisions regarding the random testing of workers. Larger employers with more financial and human resources may be more pro-active in updating their programs. However, all employers, regardless of size, should understand the risk of not acting before July 1, 2018 to address a major social change in Canada and its resultant impacts on workplace health and safety.

Norm advises employers do three things in order to become prepared:

  1. Develop a policy against coming to work high
  2. Prepare an educational plan
  3. Establish a testing and disciplinary policy

For more information about Marijuana in the workplace, please contact the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC. 1.604.795.9595 or