Keeping safety top of mind

We were all thrown a curveball this year with COVID-19. Through it all, we’ve adjusted how we work and found new, innovative ways to ensure we work safely and efficiently.

As a fully integrated energy utility, we oversee the generation, transmission, distribution and delivery of electricity in Nova Scotia. There are many moving parts and many employees who deal with specialized tasks in high-risk environments.

It’s our responsibility to deliver reliable electricity service to our customers across Nova Scotia. But that service must always be delivered safely. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our team—we never compromise on safety.

Safety is a way of life for all of us, no matter where we work. All employees receive annual safety training and we have customized training programs for our frontline workers, leaders and contractors. Our safety culture focuses on the firm belief that all incidents are preventable. One injury or illness is one too many.

We’re proud to have a strong team of 15 safety specialists, each dedicated to supporting the safety of our employees, contractors and customers. We chatted with a few members of the Safety team to learn more about building a safety culture.

Kirk Crocker, Kelly Murphy, and Sean Brennan of the Safety team

(From left: Kirk Crocker, Kelly Murphy, Sean Brennan)

How do you keep safety top of mind for employees every day? 

Kirk - It is very important to share stories and learnings from past incidents. Make safety personal by really listening to people’s safety experiences, both good and bad. Give constant reminders to make the safe choice, every time. Have the courage to care, intervene, or ask the question - What can we do to make this job safer for you? How can I help?  Then act on it. 

Sean - Safety can be dry. Reading the policy or the OHS act doesn’t always hit you or leave you engaged. Safety wins when it’s personal and relevant. Why is it that you work safe? What hazards exist in your work and how are we controlling them? Helping employees be accountable for their role in safety and supporting things that are important to them is how we engage everybody.

Kelly - Communication and participation are two key factors. We talk about safety every day with Toolbox Talks and Risk Assessments before we start a task, and 7 Minutes of Safety before we start a meeting or conference call. These give us a foundation for each day. 

When it comes to participation, employees are engaged.  We have Occupational Health and Safety committees in place, as well as focused committees such as our Personal Protective Equipment or Slips, Trips and Falls committees. These give our employees the opportunity to be safety champions.

What advice do you have for other organizations that are looking to build a culture of safety?

Kelly - Engaging with similar businesses is a great way to share ideas. We communicate regularly with utilities across the Atlantic provinces; it’s a considerable venue for learning.

Within a company, employees place importance on the things that leaders are focused on. Leadership needs to make safety the priority. Talk about safety all the time and provide employees the tools and equipment they need to work safely. Recognize employees who make safety their priority and be open and respectful of each other. Trusting your team goes a long way.

Sean – The key building blocks for me include:

  • An executive team who put health and safety above all else.
  • Recognize all the good work.
  • Promote incident reporting and do something with the data the reports provide you.
  • Let your employees lead through safety committees and give them the resources to make decisions for the company.
  • Care about each other.

Kirk - Never stop talking about safety and never stop encouraging safe behaviour. Safety starts at the top and if safety is not priority, people will get hurt.

With more employees working from home this year, are there new safety challenges to consider?

Kirk - Yes for sure. Mostly, people are safe at work and make safe choices. People get hurt at home more often. With people at home seven days a week, there are more backyard projects and home projects than ever before. A lot of this may be new to some and there is always a risk of injury, both minor and serious.

Kelly - Our province, along with the world, has been devastated this year. During this time, we’ve received daily Safety and Health messages within the company, with many providing information and education on mental health. We’re very lucky to have support with our Employee and Family Assistance program and our Health and Wellness team. We can’t be focused on safety if our minds our elsewhere.

Sean - I think it’s been positive for safety and health. This year has shown all of us how important health and safety is to our world. We are living through a serious high potential incident. We’ve had time this year to think about what’s most important in life and I think we are healthier and safer for it.

 


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