How WSPS' Safety Group helped one workplace achieve international recognition

Dec 07, 2015

Safety Group logoFrom his days on the floor of a TRW Automotive plant in St. Catharines, Michael Cocco has always been interested in health and safety. Over time he's turned his interest into a career and helped the plant achieve internationally recognized health and safety performance.

Much of the credit goes to Cocco's personal commitment to continuous improvement, but he would be the first to share credit with WSPS' Safety Group program. He's so keen that he now belongs to WSPS' follow-up Safety Groups Advantage Program (SGAP).

Created by the WSIB, the Safety Groups program helps Ontario businesses earn premium rebates while building their own comprehensive health and safety program. According to just-released results for 2014, WSPS Safety Group members slashed their lost-time injury frequency rate by 13.24%, and their injury severity rate by 18.97%. As a result, the 433 firms that successfully completed the program will receive a combined $6.4 million premium rebate.

Businesses join the program one calendar year at a time, for up to five years. Each year, members individually select five elements of a health and safety program that will help their workplace improve its performance. Members learn how to implement these elements at local meetings where they can tap into WSPS expertise and resources, and the experience of other members. WSPS consultants facilitate the meetings and are available to members between meetings.

The plant where Cocco works had already joined WSPS' Safety Group when he stepped into a health and safety management role, after having worked his way up from joint health and safety committee (JHSC) member to co-chair, and eventually health and safety environmental security coordinator. Cocco continued with the Safety Group because it offers a step-by-step framework for building a comprehensive health and safety program. "From what I had read," says Cocco, "it would bring me up to speed on different health and safety procedures, and how to write policies and procedures and roll them out."

Return to work was one of the first program elements for which Cocco created a policy and procedures, little realizing that he would be relying on them soon after. "May 6, 2009. I remember the day like it was today. A friend of mine on the floor suffered a partial amputation. Because of our return to work program I was able to play an instrumental role in helping him overcome stuff and get back on full duty."

Cocco describes the Safety Group program as "a real teaching tool. Going through the process of writing procedures on emergency preparedness, for example, getting to understand what it is, how to roll it out, the different roles and different responsibilities, how to train people, how to share the information with everybody else in your facility… It helped me increase my knowledge, and helped TRW put together a fantastic program. I got much more out of it than I thought I was going to get."

TRW's two St. Catharines plants put the Safety Group program to such good use that in 2012, one of them was among 10 global health, safety and environmental award winners, chosen from among 286 TRW plants worldwide. "That was my Super Bowl," says Cocco. "It was the first time that it had been won in St. Catharines, and the first time a plant in North America had won in eight years."

Progressing from Safety Group to SGAP

After Cocco completed WSPS' Safety Group program, he opted to join WSPS' Safety Groups Advantage Program (SGAP). The program helps workplaces evaluate their current health and safety management system and gives them additional tools to recognize, assess and control hazards.

"SGAP is a great program," says Cocco, "because it gives you a structured annual self-check that helps you keep the program you’ve created up to speed." The audit training process has also helped Cocco build new skills. He became a lead auditor for TRW's ISO program, auditing sites in Canada, the US, and Mexico.

Although TRW sold its North American linkage and suspension facilities to THK Co. Ltd. earlier this year, the health and safety program in St. Catharines continues. "The transition has been seamless," says Cocco. "I've presented what we're doing to upper management and got nothing but compliments."

Registration for WSPS' 2016 Safety Group ends December 31. Sign up today

Learn more about the WSPS Safety Groups. While on site, watch a short webinar that explains how the program works.