Delivering a 20,000-pound MRI scanner to a hospital can pose immense safety risks not only to the delivery crew, but also to hospital staff, visitors and patients. It can take five or six people to roll the machines on pallets from a loading dock through various hallways into the installation room.
“To get equipment into buildings, we have to take it apart, and sometimes the pieces are just too big for the corridors,” says Ed Kling, Western Canada regional support engineer for nuclear medicine and radiopharmacy products at GE Healthcare. “This means they could crash into walls or people and possibly hurt someone.”
To address this, GE Healthcare’s Canadian environmental health and safety teams have been instrumental in getting some equipment redesigned so it could be broken down into smaller pieces that are lighter, less cumbersome and safer to transport. They also had special tools developed that make handling the machinery easier and safer for the company’s 570 Canadian workers.
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In 2015, a working alone app (NeverAlone) was launched for GE Healthcare to enhance the usability, flexibility and productivity of the working alone procedure. This app is a great example of a project the joint health and safety committee and safety champions drove as a team — they planned, developed, tested and communicated the app.
“Our employees work in remote areas, geographically and even in the hospital environment. We don’t always have the ability to have two people on a job, but by having this app, it gives our employees the confidence that someone is watching out for them,” says Paul Desiri, GE Healthcare’s director of environment health and safety at the company headquarters in Mississauga, Ont.
Across the 130 countries where GE operates, workers bring best practices and improvements to corporate decision-makers through their EHS champions, who also conduct safety audits in their areas.
“EHS is not a top-down driven program. It’s at every layer of the organization and because of the EHS champions, it helps people know and understand the real actionable items they need to do in their specific roles,” says Kling, who is a safety champion himself. “It also enables continuous two-way communications to keep people aware and current for their specific area of the business and provide real feedback.”
GE Healthcare has a large fleet of motor vehicles and the majority of its employees drive on company business, so it has a robust motor vehicle safety program. All employees who drive more than 40,000 kilometres per year on company business or who have one moving violation or incident are required to complete practical hands-on driving refresher training. The requirement for training was validated by a review of the incident data (fault and no-fault) that found the potential for motor vehicle incidents is highest for employees who drive more than 40,000 km per year.
Other initiatives that have been implemented include ongoing distracted driving campaigns, defensive driving reminders and driver ergonomic tips.
According to Desiri, the numbers show the company’s commitment to safety is working. Since 2006, GE Healthcare Canada has surpassed 10 million hours without a lost-time injury. Non lost-time injuries have also shown continuous improvement year over year. For example, six years ago, that rate was 1.2, but it is expected to be about 0.3 for 2016.
“We see every near miss as a gift,” he says. “It means that no one got hurt, presents an opportunity to learn and allows us to fix a problem before someone does.”