Utilities Kingston ‘wires up’ new approach to safety, wins 2023 OHS Team of the Year
Health & Safety OHS Honours OHS Team of the Year Utilities Kingston
OHS Team of the Year
Gold: Utilities Kingston
Silver: University of Calgary
Silver: CRH Canada
The concept of a safety “team” is a relatively new one for Utilities Kingston. Just a couple of years ago, that team consisted of one person — Scott Robinson, health and safety supervisor.
That all changed, though, when senior management made a commitment to provide additional resources and capacity around workplace safety, said Robinson.
“By moving safety into its own department and putting safety first with its own budget resources, we’ve doubled our capacity,” he said.
That included hiring Karen Bell as health and safety co-ordinator and putting additional professionals on the team, including Kate Tindal, the director of corporate services, and CFO Randy Murphy.
“Safety has always been important, but we really saw how the industry was going and we wanted to stay ahead of things rather than lagging behind,” said Robinson. He gave Tindal and Murphy a lot of credit for ensuring the team was moved into the spotlight in the boardroom.
“(Murphy) is the one who really got the ball rolling on this. He’s the one that identified with our CEO David Fell that there was a gap,” said Robinson, and got the financial resources needed to make it happen. “One of the big things identified was that there was too much work to do for one person.”
Avoiding the safety cop stigma
The philosophy at the utility has always been to build safety through engagement, building trust and keeping staff informed of their safety responsibilities, he said. That’s a far better tactic than playing the role of safety cop.
“Adopting that approach to being the coaches, guides and counsellors over the safety cop style has paid off in dividends for our high hazard work environment,” said Robinson. “Really, it’s all about staff doing safety for the right reasons — not because somebody just told them to do it.”
He pointed to incidents of employees identifying things out in the community, and stopping members of the public from doing unsafe activities, as evidence of how its working.
“Or even other contractors and just saying, ‘Hey, you might want to do it this way,’” said Robinson. When workers see issues, they’re even going as far as saying, “You know what? We need to get the Ministry of Labour involved because this is unsafe.”
Day of Mourning
This year, the health and safety team held a solemn ceremony for staff to attend on April 28, the National Day of Mourning that remembers workers killed and injured on the job.
After a moment of silence, staff were welcomed to sign a Utilities Kingston hockey jersey as their commitment to safety. The signed jersey is hanging in one of the vehicle garages, in a spot where staff who pick up their tools, materials and PPE for the day can see it.
One big initiative for the team is its annual Safety Days even, which provides free training and information to its contractors.
“We started out 15 years ago with 10 people in a small room at a hotel talking about safety and expectations and requirements,” he said.
But now it has grown into a two-day event with more than 100 contracting firms and over 400 workers in attendance.
“Along with this free training and safety awareness session we included industry updates from Ontario One Call, the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association and the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development,” the nomination submitted read.
“The event also included additional free safety training from former Regional Program Coordinator with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, Jean Justa who provided health and safety supervisory training, and the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association who provided training on Trench Hazard Awareness, Asbestos in Construction Awareness and Traffic Protection.”
Winning the award
The team took home the Gold Award for OHS Team of the Year at 2023 OHS Honours, which Robinson called “very humbling for us.”
“It just really emphasizes that we need to keep the ball rolling and keep things moving forward,” he said.
He’s most proud of the increase in staff engagement with health and safety programs and the team, citing support from the CEO right down to the temporary summer students who join the company each year.
“It really sends you home with a smile on your face at the end of the day, that you made a difference, and we’re making a difference for our staff, contractors and our community overall,” said Robinson.