Driving a message of hope: CRH Canada takes safety communications on the road
Health & Safety Best Safety Communications Program CRH OHS Honours
Best Safety Communications Program
Gold: CRH Canada
Silver: University of Ottawa
In an industry where heavy loads and large equipment are the norm, CRH Canada is carrying an unusual but vital message on the side of its trucks.
A total of 17 vehicles have now been transformed into roving billboards to promote suicide prevention, offering information to anyone who sees it on where to turn for help with contact information for Talk Suicide Canada.
The messaging even caught the attention of a Toronto police officer, who flagged down one of the drivers to offer a compliment on the efforts to raise awareness, said Shannon Truax-Wardell, vice-president of safety and health at CRH Canada.
It’s also part of the reason the organization won the gold award for Best Safety Communications Program for 2023 at OHS Honours.
The suicide prevention program, previously highlighted by OHS Canada, is just one prong of a deliberate and sustained communication program by the team at CRH Canada to put physical and psychological well-being at the forefront, said Truax-Wardell.
SEE STOP DO Day
Since May 2021, the company has set aside one day per month for ‘SEE STOP DO Day.”
It’s a chance for senior leaders to connect with front-line workers to talk about a range of issues, and the company tied it specifically to the wellness journey, she said. It’s sort of a reset button that constantly renews the collective consciousness around safety issues.
Each month, the company picks a theme and arms its leaders with information to talk with employees. In May, for example, the focus was on mental health and wellness. In July, the conversation shifted to hydration.
When the program first launched, there was a risk that staff would feel overwhelmed with leadership descending on work sites, she said.
“But once they realized it was not a leader coming out to tell them what was going wrong, people became much more open to it and engaged in the process,” she said. “Our employees take it as an opportunity to bring up areas of concern.”
For example Truax-Wardell was at a quarry in Milton, Ont., for a recent SEE STOP DO Day focused on workplace and equipment safety, when she was approached by a concerned employee.
The issue? A contractor was operating heavy equipment fitted with tinted windows. This worker was concerned that the person operating the machinery wouldn’t be able to see properly, hindering safety and communication.
“I was like, ‘Let’s go take a look.’ It was super dark, the tint,” she said. “We went and talked to the contractor and his boss, and they thanked us for bringing up that concern and they removed it. Now, they can make visual contact with each other, which is huge.”
Having leaders on-site makes impromptu conversations like that happen, she said, and workers feel more comfortable raising issues when they see action being taken.
“It gives our leaders an opportunity to spend more time where the bulk of our people are,” she said.
The Occupational Health Team and the Communications Team at CRH Canada joined forces to reinforce this campaign with a monthly enewsletter — “SEE STOP DO — Take 3 Seconds for Safety.”
It focuses on disseminating information about current and ongoing safety programs, educational materials, and “safety success stories” told by the employees themselves.
“People have brought forward stories of their kids, their parents, their spouse, their colleagues,” said Truax-Wardell.
The messaging in the enewsletter is also shared in other formats, such as communications boards and televisions. Getting the stories from staff hasn’t been difficult, she said.
“What’s interesting is you see more stories come from certain divisions. Like our construction division, where people are much more willing to talk about their family and they’re willing to bring things forward,” she said.
Karli Dempster, communications and marketing co-ordinator at CRH Canada, said they would also supplement those efforts with video testimonials from employees.
“You could tell it really meant a lot to them,” she said.
Winning the award
When news landed that the company had won the top award for safety communications, a cheer went up among the team, said Dempster.
“It was a sense of recognition, that everything we were doing — all the hard work that both our teams had done — it’s icing on the cake,” she said. “We hear the feedback from the employees, but to be recognized outside as well? That’s huge for us.”
Truax-Wardell said it gave the team a sense of pride.
“Our safety comms is a collaborative effort, right? It’s not just one person or group,” she said. “It’s all of us together owning separate pieces of it.”