Back to Posts
Category: News and Updates

Rigor in safety training

Data-driven safety investments help Mission Hill stay ahead

By Ada Slivinski – In the B.C. Interior, Mission Hill is one of the three largest commercial winery operations. With more than 200 employees at peak harvest season, they need to run as a well-oiled machine to keep everyone trained and workplace injuries at bay.

“My experience has been that larger wineries tend to have more varied equipment, more employees, and they were usually the first to develop new safety systems as a result of that,” said Les Shorter, Mission Hill Director of Operations.

“In the early 90’s, a person might receive an hour or two of instruction at most and a quick tour of the plant. You’d put them on the packaging line, and they’d learn sort of by doing. Now, our orientations are two weeks long,” says Shorter.

“We spend a great deal of time on the orientation of new employees, and that has been a great area of focus over the past number of years,” says Shorter.

Over the past 20 years, winery safety systems have improved substantially, especially when it comes to confined space and lockout procedures. Today, lockouts are all the same colour and they work in the same manner so that staff trained on one can turn off all of them.

Mission Hill began work with the Manufacturing Safety Alliance several years ago when safety advisor Sheldon McKee came to do a GAP analysis. McKee compared what the winery was doing to the Occupational Safety Standard of Excellence (OSSE) and found that though they were doing many of the right things, they lacked documentation. Since then, they have had McKee in many times to review confined space, lockout procedures, vehicle traffic, slips trips and falls, and anything else that could be a potential safety risk.

In the process, Mission Hill has worked from a small surcharge to on par with the industry rate for wineries (which itself has steadily been dropping due to improvements in safety). The ultimate goal is a rate rebate which they hope to achieve through OSSE certification in the near future.

In addition to their work with the Alliance, Mission Hill has worked closely with WorkSafeBC, inviting them in regularly.

“They may come for a visit and may not be looking specifically at a certain area like confined space, but we are going to be above and beyond what their expectations will be. We try to be ahead of the curve and invite them in: we don’t wait for them to do an inspection and be at our doorstep.” says Jody Zummack, Manager of Operations.

For example, she shares, with their press rescue systems, they have gone above and beyond the standard harness and purchased state of the art press rescue equipment.

“Instead of following the standard, we try to set the standard,” said Zummack.

We spend a great deal of time on the orientation of new employees, and that has been a great area of focus over the past number of years.


One thing that allows Mission Hill to stay ahead of the curve is watching their safety data closely.

“A number of years ago, we noticed a trend on our hospitality side: terrace, tours and catering—they weren’t serious incidents—a slip, a trip, a cut finger. They weren’t missing a lot of time, but we beefed up the training for new young workers and their supervisors,” says Shorter.

“WorkSafe looks at us as one employer, and these small events are still reportable incidents. “We were doing pretty well on the plant side because we had done all of this extra work, but on the hospitality side, we felt we could do better,” adds Shorter.

Instead of following the standard, we try to set the standard.


When a new employee joins the winery, safety training is built into the orientation. In addition, Zummack organizes an annual safety day in March for the team. The fair includes safety stations with specialists from organizations such as the Manufacturing Safety Alliance doing fall arrest, fit testing, and more.

“We are definitely very involved in the person we hire—how they’re progressing and how they’re doing,” says Zummack, “and a big part of that is safety. Are they getting it and are they practicing it?”

“I think people realize that we put the time and energy into safety. When you shut down an entire operation to have a safety day, that’s a big deal—and I mean every department. We completely shut down the entire plant to do that, just to make sure that these people are well-versed in safety,” Zummack adds.

Share this post

Back to Posts