2017 Mission: Zero Awards – Large Employer Category

2017 Mission: Zero Awards – Large Employer Category

The Mission: Zero Awards were created to highlight businesses that succeed in keeping their employees both safe and healthy in and out of work. These awards are given to businesses and organizations that go above and beyond the accepted standards of employee training, wellness initiatives and workplace safety. Awards are given out to three separate categories: small businesses, medium businesses, and large businesses. Through recognizing innovations and diminishing rates of accidents or incidents in various businesses the Mission: Zero Awards inspire other businesses to make safety the top priority.


First Place: Viterra

Ensuring that more than 1,800 employees return home to their families is a hefty challenge. It’s one that Viterra has met head on with a comprehensive health and safety plan.

“We’ve worked really hard to make safety a top-of-mind priority for our employees,” explained Viterra President and CEO Kyle Jeworski. “We consistently reinforce the importance of safety across all our operations. Our employees are the ones that play the key role in safe production, so it’s not that the mandate is coming down from on high. It’s every employee playing a key role in keeping each other safe.”

Policies and programs and performance training are constantly being evaluated and updated to maintain relevance and effectiveness for employees. Safety targets and benchmarks ensure everyone at Viterra they’re moving in the right direction.

Perhaps one of the most effective health and safety initiatives at Viterra comes through the “near-miss” reporting. It’s a collaborative effort between employees and managers. Employees are asked to fill out a form that provides an overview of the accident that was narrowly avoided, accompanied by a discussion between employee and manager to make sure hazards are addressed.

“Yes, we avoided an accident or an injury, but it’s something we need to address to ensure there isn’t an issue moving forward,” Jeworski said. “It’s a more proactive way of handling it as opposed to waiting for an injury to happen and addressing it then. At that point, it would be too late.”

The improvements Jeworski and his staff have noticed when it comes to developing a safe working environment have consistently incremental.

“A change in a safety culture is not something that happens with a flick of the switch. We’ve seen continued improvement in overall safety performance. We’ve seen a significant reduction in lost-time incidents.

“We have continued dialogue to ensure we don’t get complacent. A good performance in one month doesn’t mean that we can become complacent. We need to make sure that we stay on it.”

That attitude extends beyond the workplace. Employees and managers do their best to introduce healthy and safe behaviours at home and at play. And because the majority of Viterra customers are rural based and working in farming communities with heavy equipment and chemicals, opportunities to teach proper safety practices are plentiful.

“If you develop an employees’ mindset and a culture of safety that those behaviours will follow them in other aspects of their life,” Jeworski. “If you’re thinking you need to keep yourself safe and your coworkers safe, then we feel that will extend to your home and with your family too. Safety principles follow a person.”

Viterra is active with its programs in community investment. They continuously support the Canadian Agriculture Safety Association, promote farm safety, and equip producers with info and tools they need to stay safe on their farms.


Second Place: Saskatchewan Research Corp.

When it comes to health and safety at the workplace, they’re doing a lot of things correctly at Saskatchewan Research Corp. Led by President and CEO Laurie Schramm, this company for the second consecutive year is a finalist for a Mission: Zero Award.

“I’ve been working long enough to know what it’s like and what it feels like to work in an unsafe environment,” Schramm said. “I’ve been around long enough to see employees and coworkers get injured on the job. I even saw an employee die on the job. Those things really leave an impact in how easy it can be for someone to hurt at work doing something similar to what they do every single day. It can happen when you least expect it… and those incidents really stick with you.”

“Employees health and safety has always been the most important thing. Our company is doing really important work for our province… but I don’t think anything is more important than keeping everyone safe and healthy. That comes first.”

There are highly hazardous areas at SRC where staff work with a nuclear reactor and various chemicals and biohazards. In those areas, safe practices need to be second nature.

It was the little things, according to Schramm, that were being overlooked. Things like slips and falls from water on the floor, or trips over equipment that was out of place. Schramm learned these accidents were caused by rushing to complete a job or meet a deadline.

“We all believe that safety should come first, but there were parts of our company’s culture that tended to think that meeting our clients’ needs and deadlines maybe came first.”

In 2004, a new strategy was implemented that aimed at empowering employees so they could put safety and occupational health as top priority. This resulted in some projects missing deadlines, or losing some projects altogether. It also meant added spending for proper training and equipment.

“Our executive team has been trying to get out and demonstrate that we care about employees’ well being,” Schramm said. “It’s not just something the communications team or a lawyer said we should do. This definitely is not a fad. It’s something we’re doing for the long haul.

The next challenge was sharing that attitude beyond the workplace.

Not wanting to intrude on employees’ personal lives, Schramm said SRC encouraged workplace discussions to find out what was wanted.

Already in place was an employee family assistance program to help both employees and their families for physical and mental health. Adding to that, SRC offered annual influenza immunizations.

As well, employees often use tools from the workplace for home projects. Employee recognition gifts are safety-related, such as first aid kits or vehicle rescue tools. It also held safety contests.


Third Place: Athabasca Basin Security

Creating a healthy and safe environment for employees is a serious matter, and Athabasca Basin Security didn’t take a half-hearted approach. They made a major shift in their approach to safety and it is paying off.

Changes needed to be made in order to ensure employees were safe on the job. That’s why safety jumped to the top of the list when CEO Ron Hyggen and staff created a new strategic plan.

A budget was set aside to help reach goals and objectives.

“We invested by hiring a dedicated safety resource and developed a company-specific safety program rather than continuing the use of the construction-based safety program we had been using,” Hyggen explained. “The safety program had specific items that our team deemed vital to the success of the program.”

Taking its place was a safety orientation and video that explained the importance of working safely.

In addition, they implemented a manager and a supervisor to their training program. All managers and supervisors received one-on-one training with the health and safety executive manager to ensure a complete understanding of their safety program. As well, all staff must pass a competency test upon completion.

Other milestones included the development of a hazard registry outlining all hazards employees face at all sites; safety training and testing instituted for all frontline employees; a mandatory review of a safe work procedure at every weekly toolbox meeting.

“Safety makes good financial sense,” Hyggen said. “A by-product of having a workforce that works safe is WCB rate discounts and time saved by not having to manage claims.

“We have a moral obligation to return employees to their families in the same health that we received them. It is the responsibility of every employer to do their absolute best in providing a safe place to work for their employees.”

As a result, Athabasca Basin Security has experienced a lowering of Workers’ Compensation Board rates every year since implementation of the safety program in 2012. It went from a surcharge to a discount of 30 per cent for 2017.

December 15, 2017 | Originally posted in SaskBusiness