Ryan Rodrigues: Honourable Mention, OHS Professional of the Year at 2022 OHS Honours
Health & Safety
Workers at Enbridge spend more time than you might guess deploying pylons.
There’s a lot of short duration work, and the employees need to set them up for traffic control purposes. And Ryan Rodrigues didn’t like what he was seeing as a result.
“A lot of workers were pulling their backs because we’d stack like 10 pylons in a row and then just throw them in the back of the vehicle,” said Rodrigues, health and safety officer at Enbridge/Unifor Local 975. “And same thing with getting out, we’d pick up 10 at a time and throw it out of the vehicle to setup for a traffic plan.”
It left him scratching his head, thinking there must be a better way. His idea? Install pylon holders on the trucks to make it easier to “pop one off at a time,” he said.
He took that idea to his joint health and safety committee, then to management with a business case — and it was approved.
“So now, all of our fleet vehicles come stock with pylon holders,” he said.
That’s just one example of the innovation and commitment to safety that helped Rodrigues earn Honourable Mention as the 2022 OHS Profession of the Year at the recent OHS Honours gala.
In his unique role, working for Enbridge but representing the union, he has worked to ensure safety isn’t seen as a worker versus management issue.
“It should be, ‘Is there a hazard present and how do we address it?’” he said. “If we’re addressing a hazard properly, we’re helping the company with improving worker safety and do their due diligence. And we’re helping the workers improve their health and safety in the workplace.”
His role plays out in all kinds of ways, he said. It could be as big as reviewing occupational health and safety legislation to ensure everything is in compliance. Or it could be as small as looking at a specific tool to see if there is a better one to get the job done.
“Some folks see different types of tools being used by other companies in the States, and they want to try it out,” he said. “Like, for instance, this is a pipe wrench that is more ergonomic. Let’s try it out.”
Collaboration is key
The key word for Rodrigues when it comes to safety is simple: “Collaboration.”
He is particularly impressed with the progress, at all organizations and across soceity, when it comes to mental health.
“Coming out of COVID, I think we’ve all been through some things,” he said, and Canadians seem more open to having conversations and dealing with it head on.
“Mental health is one of those things we don’t see,” he said.
“It’s not like a critical injury where it’s very dramatic and identifiable. I’m impressed with the industry having these discussions open and candidly and actually investing in resources.”
But he also sees room for improvement when it comes to recognition, something he thinks can be very powerful in developing a safe culture.
“A lot of times, in health and safety or in life in general, something bad happens and we focus on it,” he said. “We talk about it, we put slides together and PowerPoints and have presentations and meetings. But when the good stuff happens, when someone does a great job and prevents an incident from happening and goes above and beyond, we don’t recognize them in the same way.”
Taking time to stop and thank those workers could go a long way in improving OHS holistically, he said.