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Westcan drivers stop for safety

Company wins gold in transportation category of Canada's Safest Employers awards
By COS staff
| Canadian Occupational Safety

Westcan Bulk Transport has 800 trucks on the road every day, driving across Western Canada, Ontario and the western Arctic, and each truck is required to stop every three hours for eight minutes.

“You can do your walk around, you can do your stretches, you can check your messages, you can update your journey management plan and then you can get back on the road,” says Dan Columbus, vice-president of health, safety and environment at the Edmonton-based company.

If drivers do not stop every three hours, Westcan is notified through the electronic log system and it sends an emergency alert to the driver asking him to pull over.

This new policy was implemented last year, and although it accounts for a fair amount of time, it’s worth it, says Columbus.

“We feel that the efficiency of being prepared, alert, well-rested, not having incidents and the continuation of work in the health of our employees, that’s a great investment.”

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The three-hour stop program helps ensure drivers do not become fatigued behind the wheel — a major focus at Westcan. Last year, the company found a new service provider for its fatigue management program, which has been a very successful partnership, resulting in advanced methods of screening, therapy, monitoring and followup for sleep apnea.

It came to Westcan’s attention that while its continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines still worked, the technology was redundant and they were not the “latest and greatest” for the drivers, so it replaced upwards of 100 machines at a cost of more than a $260,000, says Stephanie Theede, vice-president of human resources. The new technology comes with an app that provides drivers with analytics on their sleep patterns and keeps them informed of their progress.

Every year Westcan holds a Distraction Month to refresh the company’s 1,200 employees on the dangers of distraction and remind them of Westcan’s distraction avoidance policy. For example, when they are behind the wheel, drivers are not permitted to use Bluetooth, unwrap food or read maps.

Distraction Month features a poster campaign, activities where employees can receive rewards for participation and safety messages and videos on Westcan’s live feed board televisions. It also extends the message to customers and families through its newsletter and social media.

The campaign goes beyond distracted driving to include other forms of distraction. One activity has workers walk on a squiggly line while texting, so they can see how this distraction can be problematic. On the wellness side, topics such as the distractions of financial stress and family issues are addressed.

“We believe if your mind is not on task, no matter what task you’re doing, there’s a risk you could be injured, a family member could be injured or environmental damage, it could be numerous things,” says Columbus.

In 2012, Westcan signed up with a third-party speed monitoring service to stop speeding among its drivers. With daily notification from the service provider, Westcan has been able to significantly reduce speeding through coaching, re-training and, in some cases, disciplining drivers for speeding.

Going forward, Westcan is prioritizing its health and wellness program in the hopes of keeping workers in top health throughout their careers.

“We know with our onboarding process we get very healthy employees. Why is it that later, people get sick?” says Columbus. “Is it the way they eat, is it the stress of home or the stress of work? We’ve taken our health and wellness program and we’re looking at prevention with our solutions. It’s body, it’s mind, it’s health, it’s about bringing all of that together.”

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