Celebrating safety leadership in BC manufacturing
Workplace health and safety excellence starts at the top. A leader’s commitment to safety helps establish the values, principles, and actions that build a safety culture in manufacturing.
Tupper Street Consulting
In each edition of Make it Safe, we feature a new #safetyleader. We spoke to Nick Reiach, Senior Leader at Tupper Street Consulting and Chair of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC Board of Directors in this edition.
Nick, what led you to make safety a commitment in your career?
In speaking with peers, it seems that many made a strong safety commitment after witnessing a traumatic incident. I’m fortunate that this was not the case for me. Through extensive reading and mentorship, I concluded that building a well-run factory with safety as the first foundational building block is critical.
In your opinion, who “owns” safety at work – and why do you believe this?
All levels of the organization own elements of a safety program. No single person can keep everyone safe by their actions alone. However, senior leaders in an organization have the most influence and authority and, therefore, the most responsibility to allocate resources and reinforce safety culture whenever possible.
How would you describe your approach to workplace health and safety?
When I first committed to learning what it meant to create a strong safety program, I was discouraged by the documentation and rigid rules. This structure doesn’t always translate practically in a factory setting. There is a place for those things, but I focus on practical, common sense, and flexible approaches to safety in the ‘real world.’ Safety is a mindset, not a prescriptive binder full of rules and regulations.
What is the biggest challenge to safety at your organization, and how do you work to overcome it?
Complacency shows up in all facets of life – work and personal. It’s easy to become desensitized to risk over time, and the temptation to take shortcuts is inevitable due to the confluence of modern life and human nature. Evaluating and prioritizing the most significant risks and designing solutions that eliminate the risk wherever possible are areas where I like to focus our resources.
What is the role of leaders in fostering a culture of safety?
I once received this simple but great advice: “Would you let your mom work here?” Applying this idea has always made it easier to see the gaps and do something about them. With all new managers I work with, I ask them to consider this simple question to benefit from seeing things more clearly through this lens.
How do you foster communication on safety issues within your company?
The same way we foster communication on quality issues and HR issues – positive, consistent leadership with a dash of analytics.
Describe some of your points of pride in your safety program and approach.
We recently commissioned a remote warehouse from scratch (new racking, forklifts, and team members). Because of the remote location, the warehouse would not have centralized senior leadership. It’s been a great source of pride to set the tone and expectation with this new warehouse team that safety would be non-negotiable. We made sure the team had the resources and training they needed. We ensured the manager had our support whenever the group encountered a gray area and gave the team significant autonomy to create the safety rules and culture they wanted.
Does a robust health and safety program support other aspects of your business?
As I said above, how a company manages safety directly correlates to how it manages other vital aspects of the business. Fundamentally, the methodology used to build a great safety program requires the exact same tools used to create other programs of excellence like quality, housekeeping, maintenance, productivity, etc.
What commitments have you made to ongoing education/training in safety for your employees?
Practical safety training is always encouraged and available to all employees and managers. Still, the actual investment in safety training, from my point of view, is when we invest in team dynamics. The more trust and ease of communication that exists, the more likely we’ll hear of potential issues before it’s too late. Most recently, we met with our entire team in a four-hour town hall that combined team building and strategic planning. Because the group appreciated the experience so much, the leadership expanded the program to all levels of the organization. They reported that they felt more appreciated and connected to the organization. I believe this will do more for our safety program than any specific safety training module.
How do you define success for health and safety at your company? How do you measure safety?
I typically look at two measurements when evaluating our safety program effectiveness:.
Lag measures – # of first aid incidents and # of lost time days; and
Lead measures – # of employee reported safety incidents and employee survey results.
What have you done to support your company’s mental health and well-being?
By connecting with people holistically and in a meaningful way (such as in our town halls), we hope to get feedback and create a safe space for employees to provide open and anonymous feedback.