Two million hours and counting: NS Power reaches safety milestone

“Everybody goes home safe every day” is one of the first things new hires learn when they join Nova Scotia Power. Our safety culture focuses on the belief that all workplace safety incidents are preventable. One injury or illness is one too many.

In April this year, we collectively reached over two million hours without a lost-time incident. This amounts to over seven months where no employee took time off due to a workplace accident or injury. This is a testament to our strong safety culture and the commitment of our teams across Nova Scotia who regularly assess risk and implement best safety practices.

The health and safety of our employees is always our top priority. Our safety training, program and policies are based on the needs of our unique work groups.

Within our business we have employees working in hydro generation facilities, thermal power plants, offices, warehouses, depots and substations, as well as field operations teams and contractors working on our transmission and distribution systems. Much of the work we do to provide electricity service involves specialized tasks in high-risk environments.

To better understand how our team reached this safety milestone, we spoke with Mark Sidebottom, Chief Operating Officer, NS Power.

What does this milestone mean to you?

This is a tremendous accomplishment and a proud moment for all of us. It’s the result of a lot of hard work and care from everyone. It’s what we’re all striving for. We don’t achieve a milestone like this without habits and behaviours that lead to the right decisions every time. 

How has NS Power built its strong safety culture?

We’ve focused a lot on safety leadership and accountability. A safety leader is anyone in the organization that moves our safety culture forward. We all have the responsibility to be safety champions at work and in the community. Our leaders are visible in the field and lead by example - it really sets the tone.

We also take incident reporting very seriously. We strive to create a culture where employees speak up if they see something unsafe, ask questions when they’re unsure how to proceed, and share ideas, knowledge and feedback to help us improve. It’s also about taking the time to recognize strong safety performance when you see it.

What is the size of the safety and health department at NS Power?

Our Safety team consists of 15 employees, each dedicated to supporting the safety of our employees, contractors and customers. We also have a great health and wellness division on our Human Resources team, made up of four employees.

How has COVID-19 impacted the safety performance at NS Power?

In response to COVID-19, we’ve adjusted how we work so we can continue to be healthy and safe. The pandemic has not impacted our safety performance because we never compromise on safety. Our employees have found new, innovative ways to ensure we work safely and efficiently through this.
While our focus on the safety and wellbeing of our employees is always our top priority, I would say mental health is so crucial to focus on right now. We’re doing so many things in different ways and we need to support each other.
Click here to learn more about how we’re keeping our employees safe during COVID-19.

What safety training do your employees receive?

All new hires complete a safety orientation focused on our values and beliefs. We also require leaders to complete safety leadership training to learn our expectations for leading employees safely. Our frontline workers have customized training programs for their role.
All employees are trained in our behaviour-based program SafeStart, which outlines how to respond to different states of mind and reduce human error. If we are rushing, we slow down. If our mind is drifting from the task, we take a break.  We assess the risks, we put controls in place, and we use the right tools for the job. If things aren’t safe, we stop work until it is.
Our employees also do an excellent job starting each meeting with a safety moment, and some of the best informal training we provide are through these peer-to-peer moments.

What are the big safety hazards in the electricity industry?

We have a diverse team, with employee groups who typically work in office settings, others who are out in the field working on high voltage power lines and teams who work on maintenance and generation in our power plants. Each area has site-specific risks.
That being said, a big focus for us last year was mitigating slips, trips and falls right across the company, especially in our high risk environments. So we set up a specific committee and rolled out traction training to all employees.

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