CEOs talking safety: measuring performance, holding contractors accountable, and more

Nov 06, 2014

CEOs talking safety"View from the Top," a Q&A session featuring three CEOs, is an annual must-see at WSPS' national Partners in Prevention Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show. CEOs share opinions, insights and advice as they answer such questions from delegates as "How are you able to instill health and safety as a core value in your managers and supervisors?"

Sharing the podium at this year's event, moderated by Gemini award-winning broadcast journalist Wendy Mesley: Harry Oshanski, president and CEO, Casino Rama, Mike Reinders, president, Maple Reinders Constructors, and Peter Van Stralen, president and CEO of Sunshine Brands. Highlights appear below.1

Does your board measure you on safety performance?

Harry Oshanski: I don't have a board. I have a set of stakeholders who all have different interests in the business, but they all have one commonality: financial. I think if your health and safety record incurs costs for the business, that's where they tend to focus.

Mike Reinders: If there is a board for any organization, safety must start there… There are many metrics they can use. For instance, I get a regular report of all the [safety] audits done on our sites. When an injury occurs, there's a report on my desk. It's all tracked so that I can see the trends. Our clients are also asking for all kinds of metrics.

Why aren't more CEOs pushing harder for health and safety?

Harry Oshanski: I believe leaders in virtually every industry are trying to create stronger safety cultures. Those of us who grew up in a scenario where safety wasn't valued at all can see the mindset of senior leadership changing. But it's slow and it's tough to measure how quickly it's changing.

Is there enough or too much regulation?

Mike Reinders: The law is the law. We abide by it and go above it. Our safety policies and systems are above what the law requires.

Harry Oshanski: We look at what the requirements are and use that as the low point for benchmarking. The law is the minimum standard. It's not our standard.

How do you hold contractors on your sites accountable?

Mike Reinders: We require every subcontractor to adhere to our safety policy, and we'll fine them for non-compliance.

Harry Oshanski: We're in the middle of a $25 million construction project at the casino, and if a contractor comes onto our site, they have to adhere to our policy and procedures. To ensure they’re compliant, we inspect them. We have to protect our employees and our customers.

Peter Van Stralen: We don't contract out, but we are a sub-contractor to many companies. Recently one of our customers put one of our teams through extensive training on their health and safety practices. This is a good thing.

How are you able to instill health and safety as a core value in your manager and supervisors?

Peter Van Stralen: We have what we call the four 'ins' of buy-in. At the base of the pyramid is 'Internalize.' Whatever your principles and values are as a company, safety being one of them, leaders have to live them. If not, people become cynical.

The next level is 'Integrate.' Specific systems and activities that happen on a daily basis can help you push your safety values forward. Sunshine Brands is a whole bunch of independent businesses spread out across the country. We may have 50 people on one team and 5 on another. But every morning each team does a huddle. It's an acronym: Have someone recite our values, Uniform and PPE check, Discuss yesterday, Discuss today, Listen, Energize.

The next level is 'Invite.' We hire slow and fire fast. We're inviting you into our family, and we want to make sure you are predisposed to our values.

The last 'in' is 'Inspire.' Your role is to go around inspiring people to continue in the mindset and values of your company.

What practices can you recommend to discourage reprisals against workers who raise health and safety concerns?

Harry Oshanski: You need to demonstrate it won't be tolerated. Nobody gets fired at Casino Rama without me knowing about it first, and we have 3,000 employees. Every single time I investigate what the reasons are. If they were for some kind of reprisal, we would discipline the manager who intended to carry out the termination. If the safety concern isn't legitimate, explain why it's not legitimate, thank the person for bringing it forward, and move on.

Mike Reinders: I try to encourage all employees to report unsafe conditions. Technology helps. One of my sons works on one of our sites, and when he sees an unsafe condition he takes a photo with his cell phone and shows the site superintendent…

What kind of programs do you have for new and young workers?

Harry Oshanski: We provide extensive training when people come on board, but we don't distinguish between a Millennial and someone who's 50 years old. We're cognizant that Millennials may have a different disposition to health and safety, but we don't treat them differently.

Mike Reinders: Training new and young workers is critical. We give them different coloured hardhats so they're more identifiable on the worksite. We also have a pink hardhat for workers who forget their hardhat at home.

Peter Van Stralen: We have a lot of young people, and our orientation program is the same no matter what the person's age.

Are wellness programs needed?

Mike Reinders: I preach that life is like a wheel, and there are six spokes in the wheel: work, leisure, family, spiritual, social and physical. If one of these spokes is missing, the wheel is unbalanced and something's going to break. So we advocate a work-life balance. We encourage employees to take vacation and spend time with their family. We also try to limit how far employees have to travel to get to work, and look for the signs of overwork and overstress.

In our corporate offices we have gyms and trainers. We also have lunch 'n learns where we bring in people to talk about nutrition, exercise, sleep, personal finances, writing your own wills… topics that aren't directly work related but affect wellness.

Peter Van Stralen: We have a strong focus on wellness and have programs in place, including a gym at our head office. Everyone can take a body break at any time of the day and go down to the gym. If people can conduct a meeting while walking instead of sitting at a table, then we encourage them to do so. Since we have teams all over the country, we put together a program with a national fitness chain where any team member can use the facilities at a special rate.

Harry Oshanski: We do a lot of the same things. We have discounted gym memberships, weight-loss programs… We also have chiropractic and medical services that come right into the casino to treat people, and we serve healthy meals in our staff dining room.

This is the second of two reports on this year's "View from the Top" session. Read the first report CEOs talking safety: view your people as an appreciating asset.


1 Speakers' comments have been edited and condensed