OHS Canada Magazine

Sustainable safety practices provide calm in the current storm


August 22, 2022
By Lisa McGuire

Human Resources Automation Culture Great Resignation Robots

Photo: Adobe Stock

Businesses are navigating a new balance for sustainability in the “new normal,” learning how to be agile in keeping workers safe. These skills will continue to support manufacturers facing new workplace challenges, from labour shortages and automation to global supply chain issues and climate change.

Business sustainability goes beyond environmental initiatives. It requires understanding your future employees, consumers and products — and taking steps now to support that future.

Labour shortage and the ‘ Great Resignation’

While the pandemic exacerbated the global labour shortage, the seeds were in place long before then. Contributing factors include an aging population, tech skills gaps and low wages.

Recent events have forced companies to adapt quickly to overcome immediate concerns as they navigate longer-term changes. Challenges include hiring and retention, lack of qualified staff and higher absenteeism during the pandemic.

These issues contribute to fatigue, injury, and burnout amongst the remaining staff.

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Mark Bunz, CEO of Dinoflex Industries, spent time researching the why of the Great Resignation and noted the number one reason employees are currently leaving is for higher wages.

In industry studies, exiting employees also reported a lack of career advancement opportunities and not feeling valued by their supervisor. In response to these insights, Dinoflex introduced wage
grid increases and adapted its supervisory model.

“We recognized that supervision was no longer adequate, so we moved towards a cell-lead concept with eight individuals engaging with more people. Training, safety, and culture have all improved,” said Bunz. “An unintended benefit of this model was that advancement opportunities opened up for five employees.”

Focus on workplace culture

The Great Resignation motivates companies to look at what makes them attractive to critical talent. Companies facing labour gaps will need to embrace new and trusted solutions to become an employer of choice, including:

  • Financial incentives based on performance and referrals
  • Inclusive perks for new Canadians, and accessible workplace for workers with disabilities or those returning to work after injury, and the long-term unemployed
  • Upskilling existing workers to take on expanded roles
  • Robust orientation programs for new workers to ease their transition into the workplace and prevent workplace injuries
  • Alternative work arrangements to encourage older workers to stay or entice retired workers back to work

Employees offer critical information on what’s working and what’s not, and this feedback allows companies to refine the workplace culture continuously. At Puratos Canada, president Michael Simone holds fireside chats and town halls to get information about their culture directly from his team.

“How do we use our brand voice to recruit? People want to feel safe, and we need them to tell our safety story,” notes Simone.

Growing a solid health and safety culture takes hard work, dedication, and a continuous desire to improve, but the payoff is enormous. Safe workplaces improve staff engagement, and workers who feel cared for and contribute directly to safety culture decisions are more likely to stay and recommend their company to others.

Embrace automation

The future of manufacturing will include workplaces equipped with robots, cobots and other automation. Tomorrow’s employees need the technical skills to successfully work alongside technology – including engineering, machine learning, artificial intelligence and other high-tech skills. In Europe, where they have been facing labour shortages for longer, manufacturing has increased automation to reduce reliance on large workforces.

Automation reduces tasks that injure and allows employees to work more safely and efficiently to reduce the labour shortage impact in some environments.

Employers of choice

Recruiting and retaining employees in the new world of work requires companies to think outside the traditional hiring toolbox and look to new solutions.

Manufacturers need to position themselves as a career path of choice through campaigns that highlight opportunities within the sector to attract technically skilled grads, artisans, and other critical roles in the plant.

Innovation in hiring and retention, automation, and strengthening your safety culture are critical strategies in becoming a workplace that attracts talent.

Lisa McGuire is the CEO of the Manufacturing Safety Alliance in Chilliwack, B.C.

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