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Building a successful safety culture | Training, recognition and involvement are key at Knight Signs

Safety is an integral part of the system for Knight Signs, the 2019 JHSC Excellence  Award winner. Management and employees work together to build systems to improve safety and health proactively—and prevent losses.

~ written by Jennifer Wiebe

“The goal is to continue to improve, to make sure every employee feels responsible for safety,” notes HR Manager Natalia Kouznetsova. “Employees go beyond the call of duty to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors, and intervene to correct them.”

Building culture through involvement

A culture of safety and wellness is built over time, Kouznetsova says. “It’s both an individual and collective responsibility.” The company’s 12-person Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) recognizes this. Knight Signs JHSC has equal representation from production, office, and management. Their responsibilities include weekly inspections and regular feedback. Committee members also play a part in accident and near-miss investigations —inviting workers to analyze and contribute to improving safety performance.

The JHSC encourages employees to bring ideas for safety improvements forward. ”Management and JHSC members involve employees in safety decisions instead of simply dictating policies,” Kouznetsova says. “That encourages workers to make suggestions, participate in safety activities, mentor new employees, and take ownership of their own safety.”

In 2019 Knight Signs held its first Safety Day to promote health and safety in a positive and encouraging way. It was a day filled with health and safety training through fun and educational activities – from a hazard assessment activity and fire extinguisher training to stretching exercises and a Safety Amazing Race.

“We had a lot of safety activities and discussions on that day,” Kouznetsova says. “All employees participated with enthusiasm, and their feedback was very encouraging.”

Leadership and recognition

Health and safety is the first topic of discussion on the agenda of management meetings and recommendations are taken seriously. JHSC is working closely with the management team to improve Safety Culture. In addition to daily recognition of positive behaviors, the company supports the committee’s recommendations for outstanding performance with a Safety Star award at a monthly town hall meeting.

The JHSC is also actively working on measuring outcomes of health and safety activities, Kouznetsova notes. “We have quarterly reports and analysis of accidents/incidents and inspections.  Sometimes policies are changed in order to improve the profile of health and safety.”

The goal is to continue to improve, to make sure every employee feels responsible for safety. Employees go beyond the call of duty to identify unsafe conditions and behaviors and intervene
to correct them.

Wellness beyond the physical

Addressing physical and mental wellness not only affects productivity, but healthy and happy employees help the company to recruit and retain talent.

Company wellness programs range from stretching workouts with a certified fitness instructor, monthly lunches, coffee breaks, and celebrations, to confidential and professional support for issues such as stress, substance abuse, depression, and anxiety.

Sharing our experience

At the 2019 Make It Safe Conference, Knight Signs committee members Natalia Kouznetsova and Sharon Hughes participated in the expert panel: Building a high-performing JHSC team: What makes a Joint Health & Safety Committee tick? Knight Signs had a few inquiries after the conference and were glad to invite their neighboring Safety Committees to safety meetings to share their knowledge and experience.

We Are All Safety Ambassadors: Innovation and Inclusivity Drive Safety Excellence at Soprema

New worker safety is top of mind at the Soprema plant in Chilliwack. The company is preparing to open a new facility in Woodstock, Ontario, and although the company operates several closer plants, they opted to fly the entire staff of the new Woodstock location to BC—a few at a time—to train alongside Plant Manager Dan Pretty’s Chilliwack team.

We Are All Safety Ambassadors
The Chilliwack plant stands out in part for its innovative approach to safety, and the way it involves the whole team. As you walk from the front office to the production area, you pass a wall of plaques—one for each person in the organization—representing each one as a Safety Ambassador. Soprema introduced the Safety Ambassador program by creating a small team of workers in each location to encourage safety and wellness at work.

It’s a binding contract. I am responsible for safety. Not only mine, but yours as well.

They recognize each team member with a plaque and a hockey-style jersey that identifies them as a Safety Ambassador. Pretty and his team looked at the program, and said, “In this plant, we are all Safety Ambassadors.” Everyone gets a plaque, and they wear their Safety Ambassador jerseys proudly on the production floor. “It’s a binding contract,” Pretty said. Staff sign their commitment: “I am responsible for safety. Not only mine, but yours as well.” That shift in mindset has taken time, Pretty said. “It was a big rock we had to roll up a hill, but now it rolls on its own.”

A Health & Safety Kaizen Blitz
Workplace safety is a priority in Soprema’s commitment to sustainability. Each of Soprema’s 63 plant managers worldwide is evaluated on the quality of their health and safety systems. Pretty notes that in Europe, the company is piloting a health and safety points system, “like your driving record,” to increase accountability for health and safety among plant leaders.

At the same time, productivity training is always ongoing. “This facility is high performing,” Pretty said, “but we’re in a never-ending pursuit to do better.”

Late last year, Dan and his team decided to look at how they could apply a Kaizen blitz approach to their health and safety program this year. “We want to be world class,” he said. The team identified four key opportunities to improve health and safety in the plant, and gave themselves until the end of March 2019 to complete the work.

First, they created a tablet-based tool to ensure consistent workplace inspections and documentation. Next, recognizing the added risk to staff doing new tasks, they created a hazard assessment workbook for non-routine tasks. This is important, Pretty said, “to help people take precautions, but also to turn that mental switch so people will start to evaluate risks subconsciously.”

Finally, they put together a plan to increase communications with workers about health and safety best practices and achievements. With this sizable project completed inside of three months, the team is planning a communications meeting and a big party at the end of April to celebrate their achievements.

A Personal Take on Safety Excellence
Plant Manager Dan Pretty shares his personal motivation for the pursuit of safety excellence at Soprema: “The motivator for me is that I never, ever want to make that call to have to say, ‘I didn’t do enough to see that you were safe today.’ If I break somebody, not only can I not replace them, but I think of the personal side of it. I know most of the people’s wives, some of their kids. I would never want to have to make that call.” “My son worked here. I tell my people, ‘The best way I can put you in the right frame of mind to protect health and safety is to pretend that your son or daughter works here. If I’m going to leave my kid working here, I’m going to make sure it’s safe.’”

When my son moved on, I told him, ‘I’m really glad you worked here because now you know what health and safety is, and what it has to be. Now you won’t compromise. Everywhere you go, this is your point of reference.’