If there is a constant focus on safety at PowerStream, an electrical distribution company based in Vaughan, Ont., it is largely because of the hazards workers are exposed to, says Henry Winter, director of human resources and health and safety. As well as working near high-voltage apparatus, power-line crews work at heights and in extreme weather.
The company’s 550 workers are taught not only to watch out for themselves, but also for their co-workers.
“Everybody has responsibility for the worker next to them. They understand their obligation to other staff regarding their safety,” says Winter.
For its field workers, PowerStream introduced an electronic job planning document called a tailboard conference sheet. The new form, accessed on workers’ computer tablets, records job steps, emergency plans, hazards and protective barriers.
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It has improved workers’ ability to identify hazards and barriers, says Dave Yeoman, manager, health and safety. In the past, they would write down a hazard and, as a group, determine what protective barriers they should use. Now, workers pick a hazard from a drop-down menu, and a list of potential barriers appears.
“Then they discuss and select the most appropriate barriers. That increases the level of safety for our crews and reduces their risk because it helps them to do hazard identification,” says Yeoman. “And selection of barriers is far more consistent.”
PowerStream promotes proactive reporting, he says. It wants employees to report not just actual incidents but also near misses and hazard concerns. Near misses are investigated as thoroughly as actual incidents. An employee with a safety concern completes a form describing the perceived hazard and recommending a solution.
The safety department then investigates, informs the employee of planned corrective actions and, if the employee agrees, implements those actions.
“Our goal is that the proactive reporting will exceed reactive reporting,” says Yeoman, adding proactive reporting helps the company identify situations it can use to promote widespread improvements. “It gives us many more opportunities to make the workplace safer for our employees. And workers play a key role in helping us, as management, make their workplace safer.”
This year, PowerStream’s joint health and safety committee implemented a corporate-wide poster program called Join in on Safety. Every quarter, members select a topic and then design, produce and distribute posters on walls and TV screens throughout facilities.
“They’ve had some great ideas, and because they review incidents, near misses and hazard concerns, they can see what is trending,” Yeoman says.
Winter says PowerStream places a huge emphasis on training and site inspections. Ten days are dedicated annually to safety training for line maintainers. Last year, managers conducted 2,400 individual site inspections. In the past three years, as well, the company has held more than 250 safety meetings annually.
Yeoman notes PowerStream’s operations department — the high-risk business — has gone 1.7 million hours without a lost-time injury.
“All the things we do, they definitely make our place a very safe place to work.”
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