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Riverside Natural Foods: Improving safety and earning a rebate during the pandemic

Riverside Natural Foods: Improving safety and earning a rebate during the pandemic

Earn compensation rebates and build a comprehensive health and safety program - even during COVID - with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)'s new Health and Safety Excellence program. It serves as a roadmap, featuring pathways for businesses with different needs and sizes, and at different stages of developing their health and safety programs.

Riverside Natural Foods joined the program in late 2019, and they have already experienced dramatic results despite the health, safety and business challenges of COVID-19. "The overall experience has really been an incredible journey for us," says Health & Safety Specialist Vincent Fortuna.

Riverside is a Canadian organic snack company known for its popular MadeGood and GoodTo Go product lines, as well as Cookie Pal dog treats. The company has about 425 employees, with all production taking place in the GTA.

Vincent attributes Riverside's success with the Health and Safety Excellence program to three key factors. But first, here's how the program works.

Participating businesses follow a five-step process:

  1. Attend an online info session.
  2. Complete a hazard assessment and choose 1 to 5 health and safety topics - from a list of 36 possibilities - to work on at your own pace over 12-15 months.* Five of these topics focus on pandemic-related priorities.
  3. Implement the safety topic(s) with support from WSPS health and safety experts. These topics help you build a comprehensive and sustainable health and safety system.
  4. Submit evidence of what you have accomplished to the WSIB for validation.
  5. On successful completion of your topics(s), start earning rebates, non-financial recognition, and the benefits of improved health and safety in your workplace.

How Riverside Natural Foods finds the program so far

Vincent is clear on why the company signed on to the Health and Safety Excellence program. "We joined to improve our health and safety culture. Overall, I think what really appealed to us was the program's process, or framework, for improving workplace safely - and the prospect of a WSIB rebate."

In January 2020, Riverside began working on these five topics:

  • emergency preparedness and prevention
  • emergency response
  • legal and other requirements
  • corrective actions
  • preventive maintenance

As the pandemic began to take hold, Riverside quickly incorporated COVID-19 considerations into its work on the first two topics: emergency response and emergency preparedness and prevention. "This helped us make a lot of decisions in a short period of time," says Vincent.

He identifies three key factors in the program's success so far. One is Riverside's efforts to engage employees in the process. "We started with managers and supervisors, involving them in building up the topics. We also had weekly safety meetings with employees regarding the topics and how we could improve the way we were doing things."

Involvement has grown organically from there. "The entire company has really been engaged in these programs," says Health & Safety Coordinator Karine Bostajian. "It was amazing to see everyone working together."

A second success factor is the program's plan-do-check-act approach to continuously improving processes and products. "It really improved the culture and everybody's way of thinking about safety," says Vincent. "Once you begin to see improvements in safety and productivity, you just want to keep moving forward."

The effects are already apparent in the company's reportable incident rate. "At the beginning of the year was 3.5," says Vincent, and now we're at 1.6 and still trending downwards."

A third success factor is expert support from the program provider, in this instance WSPS. "We've received support at every step in the form of resources and expertise… It's helped ensure that the program content meets the specific needs of our business."

Learn more about the Health and Safety Excellence program

WSPS is an approved program provider. See what the Health and Safety Excellence program offers.

Wondering if this program is right for your business? Find answers to your questions.

Estimate your potential rebate with the WSIB's rebate calculator.


* Prior to COVID-19, the completion period was 12 months. The WSIB has since added three months to help businesses manage multiple priorities.