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Utilities and Electrical 2014: London Hydro

By COS staff
| www.cos-mag.com

London Hydro is the gold winner in the utilities and electrical category for the 2014 Canada's Safest Employers Awards

London Hydro is always looking for new ways to increase employee participation in safety. With recently introduced operations and administrative “solutions groups,” for example, workers meet regularly to raise issues that may then go to the joint health and safety committee (JHSC) for recommendations.

“It’s like a brainstorming group,” says Jeff Harrison, manager of health and safety at the utility company in London, Ont. “We use this to foster open communication, and it’s another way of including staff in the idea of health and safety. We look for opportunities to be innovative.”

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The company has incorporated many safe work practices into the workday, Harrison says. It developed a hazard recognition assessment and control program, for instance. Working with operations and admin staff, it identified the risks involved in the tasks staff perform.

“Then our job is to develop mitigations to manage those risks.”

In addition, the company has integrated a safe work manual into the occupational health and safety program. And through the investigation program, it determines the circumstances and causes of incidents and devises action items to prevent a recurrence.

The team also promotes safety in the wider community. One program takes them into schools, speaking to children about electrical safety. During the presentation, delivered to 12,000 to 15,000 students annually, they use a model with electricity running through it.

“It shows a little character flying a kite and when it hits a power line, it sparks. It’s very effective and the children love it,” says Harrison.

Of the utility’s 300 employees, about 30 per cent are involved in health and safety. The JHSC is very active and it has formed other committees for ergonomics, first aid and health and wellness.

Ken Walsh, chief engineer and vice-president of operations, says organizations that are healthy and safe have a good culture and are more productive.

“We want to make sure employees are able to come to work and feel safe and secure, knowing the company cares about them,” he says.

Regular communication reminds workers of the importance of safety on the job, Walsh says. A monthly alert bulletin, distributed with paycheques, focuses on a specific incident or safety topic, such as the danger of complacency. Managers regularly visit crews and have created a full-time position of field supervisor, who conducts weekly field visits to encourage discussion of safety issues.

“I want to change ‘We do it because we have to’ into ‘We do it because we want to,’” Walsh says. “And I think we’ve been successful.”

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