City of Surrey: Honourable Mention, Best Use of Safety Technology at 2022 OHS Honours
Health & Safety 2022 OHS Honours Best Use of Safety Technology City of Surrey
You get some interesting results when you ask Google what you can accomplish in three days. You can write a song. You can learn a Beyonce dance routine. Or you can finish re-reading the seventh Harry Potter book.
There is no mention of building and launching a safety technology system from scratch. But there should be, because that’s what the City of Surrey in British Columbia accomplished during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, the province issued public health orders requiring all workplaces to have staff complete self-assessments to ensure they were symptom-free to help slow the spread of the disease.
“We’ve got 100 or-so buildings, maybe 70 active work sites and we run seven days a week,” said Sam Chauhan, OHS manager for the city. “Facilities are 24 hours, and sometimes there’s not managers at work. Old school paper would have become very cumbersome.”
‘No, no, no’
Chauhan started with Survey Monkey, crafting the half-dozen or so questions employees would need to answer before starting work each day. It was functional. But then he showed it to the IT team at the city.
“They said ‘No, no, no. We can do a better, even more enhanced version,” said Chauhan.
The end result was a slick app that met the provincial guidelines and alerted managers and supervisors about people who weren’t cleared to work — which made the scheduling headaches caused by sudden absences a bit easier to manage. All within three days.
“It was awesome,” he said.
Chauhan has no doubt that the tool helped prevent outbreaks among city staff.
“We didn’t have clusters, so that was a cool thing.”
There was some pushback in the early stages from unions around employee privacy and how the data was being used.
“We did a privacy impact assessment on the tool and we advised them that this information is only for this purpose,” he said.
After a period of time (around 30 to 45 days, Chauhan said) the data was deleted. Another question arose around who was going to pay for the data used on, for example, a smartphone if the employee had to pre-screen before coming in to the workplace.
Since most of the city facilities have free WiFi, that issue resolved itself, he said. And they even put QR codes on posters at the doors so staff could scan and easily complete the assessment before entering.
As the pandemic wore on, the city adapted the system so staff could set their vaccination status and upload proof of vaccination. Workers who did not reveal vaccination status, or were unvaccinated, were required to complete rapid testing. They could upload pictures of the rapid test to show if they were clear or had tested positive.
The city also built trust because it was the OHS team, and not HR itself, that was reaching out and contacting employees, he said. That’s because a call from OHS is probably better than a call from HR.
“I think so. I mean OHS is all about worker health and safety,” said Chauhan. “Rather than, ‘OK, is this person really malingering?’ We didn’t question that at all. If you have the sniffles, just stay home.”
The city used the tool from November 9, 2020, until March 14, 2022, when provincial restrictions lifted.