Four years ago, Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) was added to the Workers’ Compensation Board’s top 50 priority list due to its workplace injuries being above the industry standard. Today, the organization has its lowest medical aid and lost-time claims in five years.
“We really had a far ways to go in turning the ship around. A lot of good work had been done, but it was really just breathing life into that work and giving it legs,” says Jessica Hill Flaman, director of corporate safety at SGI in Regina, which has 2,100 employees. “We really invested the time into trying to change the culture at SGI when it comes to safety.”
Three qualified safety professionals were hired to work with Hill Flaman, and they spent a lot of time on the ground floor with employees. While SGI has a lot of office workers, the organization also has salvage workers, facilities workers, safety officers who complete inspections on big commercial trucks, driver examiners who are behind the wheel with unlicensed drivers and insurance adjusters who visit various properties.
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“They job shadowed with actual employees in their day-to-day responsibilities and talked to them about safety and talked to managers about safety and actually went out there to talk to them in practical terms about what they could change and how they could help them become compliant,” says Tamara Erhardt, executive vice-president and chief human resources officer.
The senior leadership team was the “driving force” behind shifting the culture at SGI, says Hill Flaman. They made some really bold moves, including: making “safety management” a part of all managers’ job descriptions; signing an annual, visible commitment to workplace safety; and adding safety to the agenda during executive team meetings.
The executive team also swapped their suits for personal protective equipment for the launch of the company’s new job safety analysis standard. They worked with their teams to determine the hazards and risks they face on the job. One hazard that came to light during this process was exposure to drugs and drug paraphernalia for staff who have to go through stolen vehicles as part of their job.
“In light of the opioid crisis, we knew we needed to act fast, so we collaborated with the Saskatoon and Regina police departments and their drug integration units and they came in and helped us put proper control methods in place,” says Hill Flaman.
SGI also collaborated with the police departments on an active threat and lock down strategy. Since employees often have to deliver tough news to customers, one of the top occupational health and safety issues workers face is being threatened. It was made clear to workers that they should not accept this behaviour and they are expected to report these incidents.
“We now have flags built into the system when we are experiencing that type of treatment from a customer because they could just as easily come in the door at another claims centre or through our issuing counters,” says Erhardt.
Last year, incident reporting increased by 98 per cent at SGI after the safety team launched a focused campaign on its importance. Staff knew they would not be disciplined — it was simply to help the company learn from these incidents and create a safer place to work. The campaign was likely so successful due to the safety team’s commitment to each and every incident that was reported.
“We are asking people to fill out his form. We better do something with that information,” says Hill Flaman.
“I said to my team, ‘We will define ourselves as being the safety department that shows up when something happens.’”
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