Strong air sector partnerships help make safety soar
STRATEGIC GOAL: Expand strategic relationships to enhance the commitment to workplace health and safety and return to work across the province
Jennifer Clarke likes to fix things. And as a WCB Nova Scotia Relationship Manager, she gets a lot of opportunities to do that. “It makes you feel good to have a sense of accomplishment that you were able to help fix something for somebody and make it okay,” says Jennifer.
Her employer portfolio, Wholesale, Utility, Resource and Infrastructure, includes more than 200 companies in 14 industry sectors. Her job is to build and nurture relationships that ultimately lead to safer working conditions for their employees. “My role is about influencing change and creating a sense of urgency for organizations to help them better understand that the status quo isn’t good enough and people getting hurt on the job is not acceptable,” she explains.
Two relationships she’s especially proud of involve two companies in the air industry. Both have been struggling with high injury rates and premium surcharges for years. She’s helping them reduce their costs and make their workplaces safer.
Team effort targets workplace safety at Swissport
Two years ago, Jennifer started working with one of her federally regulated clients, Swissport, on WCB Nova Scotia’s first-ever Federal Joint Workplace Initiative. It was a targeted year-long effort that involved Jennifer, WCB Nova Scotia workplace consultant Tanya Newell and representatives from Labour Canada and Swissport. Together, they helped the company improve its safety practices and strengthen its safety culture.
Swissport is an international company that provides ground handling services at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. At the time, the company was facing high WCB premiums and surcharges due to a fatality and an increasing number of workplace injuries at its Halifax operations. The joint workplace initiative looked at enhancing safety in several areas.
“We identified opportunities that would improve worker safety, eliminate and better control workplace hazards, improve safety awareness and procedures, and make an impact on reducing injuries and workers’ time off work while recovering,” says Mike Higgins, Quality Health Safety and Environment Supervisor with Swissport in Halifax.
The collaborative effort paid off. Thanks to ongoing safety improvements in recent years, the company’s time-loss injuries and total WCB claims have decreased by more than 30 per cent since 2016. And there’s been a dramatic decline in claims costs – total claims costs are down 74 per cent and the cost of time-loss claims is 81 per cent lower.
- Continued to work with government on red tape reduction and together with other jurisdictions, began efforts to streamline how businesses identify themselves to WCBs across Atlantic Canada
- Supported the residential construction sector as it worked to improve safety culture
- Worked with federal and provincial partners to deliver Joint Workplace Initiatives, sharing data and approaches to improve prevention outreach results
- Consult stakeholders in the development of regulations supporting PTSD legislation that will take effect in the fall of 2018
- Continue to work with and support those who share our goals for a safer working Nova Scotia
- Continue to reduce red tape and build interjurisdictional efficiencies wherever possible
The company has also introduced a new national return-to-work program and is leveraging the Internal Responsibility System to build awareness and understanding. As well, the company’s general manager, Todd Hubley, recently signed the Nova Scotia Health and Safety Leadership Charter, joining more than 100 other employers in publicly expressing his company’s commitment to workplace safety.
“The joint workplace initiative has fostered a trusted partnership where we solve problems together,” says Mike. “It has also heightened the importance of working safely each and every day.”
Collaboration leads to safety innovations at Air Canada
Back in 2013, after years of dealing with high premium surcharges and injury rates at its operations in Halifax, Air Canada decided to participate in a WCB Nova Scotia program that allowed employers to reinvest their surcharge costs into safety improvements. That started a fruitful and collaborative partnership between Jennifer and Air Canada’s Luke Hendrie that has made work safer for airline employees.
The company also brought in a new return-to-work program, which has been so successful that Air Canada is now using it across the country. “The entire Air Canada operation is benefitting from the work that’s been done here with us,” says Jennifer.
“We’ve been able to forge a trust-filled relationship,” says Luke, Manager of Project Management for Corporate Safety. “It’s given us a holistic view of what’s going on out there and it’s opened our eyes to where specifically we need to focus.”
Jennifer worked closely with Luke and his team and held focus groups with front-line workers about ways to reduce workplace hazards. As a result, the company has made significant improvements in workplace safety. It introduced innovative equipment to reduce injuries from manual baggage handling and improved communications systems to make it easier to share information about safety hazards and incidents.
She attributes the positive results at both Air Canada and Swissport to the dedication of people who share a passion for safety and a desire to work together to make meaningful change happen. She says improving workplace safety is never easy, but it’s always rewarding because it results in “fewer people getting hurt and more people going home safely to their families.”