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Case Studies

Below is a list of Partners Case Studies organised alphabetically by industry. To view more, please choose an industry from the list below.


 

Farming

Machine guarding

Building Health & Safety Capacity: A Small Business Success Story

This story is neither apocryphal nor transformative. It has no heroics or high drama. Instead, it's about how Archer's Poultry Farm has made a steady transition from unaware to aware, and used this new understanding to control hazards that otherwise put a business and its people at risk.

One of the indicators of the operation's commitment to health and safety is the matter-of-fact way in which Sherry Archer speaks about it. She speaks the same way about payroll and receivables. All three are her operational responsibilities, and she sees each as essential components in running the family business.

Sherry and her brother Stuart are the second generation of Archers to manage the business, a layer farm their father Doug began in 1946. Over the years, Archer's Poultry has grown its operational capacity substantially: the business now hatches three million chicks a year, operates a feed mill, and ships all its chicks and feed to egg producers.

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) consultant Fred Young says Stuart and Sherry Archer invest in their people the way they invest in other aspects of the business, whether it's modernizing a process or making it safer. "It's the way their father was," says Fred. "He built for the next generation. They're doing the same."

Fred has worked with both generations. "In the 1990s I began developing a solid relationship with Archer's Poultry. The agriculture sector wasn't yet covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act so there was no safety legislation. Doug could have very easily just sent me on my way, but his attitude was, 'Well, tell me where you see any safety issues.' Like Sherry, he saw health and safety as part of managing a successful business."

As the operation's understanding of health and safety has grown, so has its relationship with WSPS. Fred Young has helped with everything from drafting their health and safety policy to delivering onsite WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and WHMIS train-the-trainer courses. Today Archer's Poultry has a safety program that is ever changing but always growing to meet the health and safety needs of their operation.

Fred views the family's health and safety initiatives as part of a broader commitment to building organizational capacity. "Not just in terms of productivity, but organizational capabilities. Managing WHMIS training in house is just one example of how the business is increasing its capabilities."

He supports this process by helping Sherry stay informed. "With the hatchery, the mill and the trucking, Archer's Poultry has diverse information needs, from MSDs to falls from heights. Like any other WSPS consultant, I send them what would be most valuable to them."

"Fred's been my go-to guy for 20 years," says Sherry. "You ask him a question, and he's so fast in getting you the answer. It provides great peace of mind. A few years ago we required some air sampling, and I called Fred. He brought in an industrial hygienist. Recently we had to have some air compressors in our shop inspected, and Fred sent me the regulatory requirements and suggested some next steps. Coming up on our to-do list is transitioning from WHMIS to GHS (Globally Harmonized System). Fred has already given us some information to help us prepare.”"

According to Fred, Sherry's to-do list typifies the management style at Archer's Poultry. "They've gone from what do I need to do, to what else can I do to make our workplace safer."

"As with any industry, in agriculture some owners and managers are aware, and some are not. WSPS offers information and resources that help anyone make decisions based on what the law says and what is best for their business."

 

 

Landscaping

Machine guarding

Growing your business: how one landscaping firm took health & safety to the next level

Every spring, DeKorte's Landscaping doubles its workforce, hiring seasonal workers to supplement its permanent roster of about 15 employees. Any small business with seasonal workers will recognize the resulting challenges: how to bring these newcomers up to speed, and keep them and their co-workers safe during the busiest time of the year.

DeKorte's has built a reputation throughout the Niagara Region for creating inspired outdoor living areas. But discerning customers expect more than inspiration. They also want projects completed on time and on budget.

As the business grew, the owners felt they needed a more robust health and safety program. "We weren't exactly sure what the program needed," says Joanne DeKorte, "but we knew we wanted it to be thorough."

DeKorte's called Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) consultant Kristin Hoffman. "She had already been updating us on regulatory changes and industry best practices, which made it easy for us to talk with her."

Why focus on health and safety? "DeKorte's understands that it goes hand in hand with efficiency, productivity and customer service,"says Hoffman. "This keeps the business healthy and helps it grow."

Establishing a solid foundation

"In March 2012," explains Hoffman, "we conducted a hazard assessment, identifying and prioritizing office, shop, yard, and offsite activities that could cause injuries, illnesses or property damage." Hoffman and DeKorte's used the results to develop safe operating procedures and revamp the firm's health and safety manual.

Having put comprehensive policies and procedures in place, DeKorte's now focused on how workers applied them. At this stage, success or failure comes down to training.

Putting health and safety into practice: 3 training tips

With a succession of different projects on the books and only so much time to get them done, there's no room for errors or injuries. DeKorte's applied these three safety tips to keep staff safe and productive:

  1. Deliver orientation training before the busy season begins. "Many employers have a narrow window in which they can hire workers, train them, and get them onto the floor," says Hoffman. "But orientation is a worthwhile investment because it helps establish a standard of performance before that first interaction with co-workers and customers. Be thorough. The stronger this first step, the greater success you’ll have with all your subsequent training."
  2. Provide orientation training to everyone. This ensures all workers understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as the employer's health and safety policy, practices, and performance expectations. It also helps establish a team environment in which everyone works towards the same goals.
  3. Train and coaching continuously. Orientation is just the start. Ongoing efforts keep the training fresh, reinforce key messages, and encourage employees to keep health and safety top of mind. At DeKorte's this took the form of tool training, on-the-job training, toolbox talks, and ongoing coaching and reinforcement.
"Jobsite variables make it important to review safety precautions with our employees every day," says Joanne DeKorte. "You can never let your guard down. It can be hard to find time during busy season, but having policies that work and the templates and paperwork to back them up it truly help."

"What DeKorte's has done," says Hoffman, "is effect a cultural shift. They've made safety everybody's responsibility. It’s integrated into how work is done."

Hoffman captures the shift with this example: "In the time I've worked with DeKorte's, their health and safety questions have changed from 'Can you implement this for us?' to 'How can we implement this requirement most effectively?' This proactivity reflects a business-wide approach to managing growth.".

 

 

Manufacturing

Machine guarding

How Health and Safety Helped TFP Stairs and Railings Grow

When Sharon Cole joined TFP Stairs and Railings, she left the ordered environment of a large financial institution for the less structured and more hands-on environment of a small family-run business. The change was exciting and challenging. "In my previous position, if I needed direction I knew where to go. At TFP, I had to figure it out for myself."

The Kingston-based business combines skilled craftsmanship with high technology to design and manufacture stairs and railings. Founded in 1987 by Wayne and Lola Cole, the growing business is now managed by their sons David and Chris.

Although Sharon was brought in to implement a financial system, she soon took on responsibility for health and safety.

"The family believed they were already operating safely, and no one had ever told them any differently. But having come from a workplace with a well-established health and safety program, I felt we could do more. Exactly what, I wasn't sure of."

Sharon's concerns sprang from two sources. "We have a great bunch of people. They're just like family, and nobody wants to see a family member get hurt. But getting involved in health and safety also opened my eyes to the liability side. If you don't have a safe workplace, your business is at risk."

Like most small businesses, TFP runs lean. "We need everyone to be on the job. If we had an injury, it would affect the whole team."

Just as Sharon started looking in earnest for ways to improve health and safety, WSPS consultant Brenda Vrooman stopped by. "She's been a godsend," says Sharon. "She's very easy to talk to, she's direct, she motivates you, and she's always there if I have a question."

Brenda encouraged Sharon to join WSPS's Safety Group, in which businesses work independently and together to implement core elements of a health and safety program. WSPS consultants like Brenda facilitate regular meetings, and also work one-on-one with members and help them tap into WSPS resources. Members are guaranteed a rebate on their workers compensation premiums if they collectively improve their health and safety performance.

"The Safety Group was a natural fit," says Brenda, "because Sharon wanted to build a health and safety program methodically and economically. She's now been a member for four years, and by the end of this year will have put 20 elements of a comprehensive health and safety program into place."

More recently, TFP asked Brenda to conduct a workplace hazard assessment and develop a health and safety manual and employee handbook. "I just didn't have the time to do this myself," says Sharon. "We're growing so fast and there's just too much to do. I was telling Brenda this, and she said, 'Well, we can do this for you.'"

Building a bigger, better business

In 2013, TFP moved to a new purpose-built facility that doubled the footprint of the manufacturing shop, enabling the company to hire more people. Sharon attributes part of the business's growth to its investment in health and safety.

"It's improved our productivity and helped with employee retention. People feel more valued."

And if TFP hadn't invested in health and safety? "If I were to guess, something nasty might have happened. A serious injury could have reduced our output, increased turnover, led to a fine, and maybe even compromised our ability to expand."

But this hasn't been the case. "TFP cares about safety and about their employees," says Brenda. "Seeing owners and senior managers demonstrate a personal commitment to the well-being of their employees is what builds a health and safety culture."

 

 

Restaurants and Hospitality

Machine guarding

How One Hotel Engages Employees in Health, Safety and Organizational Performance

As maintenance manager and unofficial in-house trainer for London, Ontario's Marriott Residence Inn, Tony D'Araino has many tools in his training kit. One of the more unusual tools is a scavenger hunt.

After walking new employees through a tour of the 116-suite facility, Tony asks them to locate on a plan specific safety features, such as first aid kits, emergency exits and other need-to-know information. If the employees can't do it, Tony sends them on a hunt.

It's a fun way to learn, but more importantly it reinforces a core theme of the hotel's health and safety culture: safety is everyone's responsibility.

"If you don't have employee buy-in," explains general manager Anna McNutt, "safety doesn't happen. They have to want to be involved in safety."

Anna recognized early on the value of engaging the hotel's staff, many working on shifts, in creating a safety culture. "Our associates have the biggest impact on the overall guest experience," says Anna, "which in turn can impact repeat business and loyalty to both our own hotel and the brand."

"We've received many comments on how genuine and caring the associates are. This means a lot to us on a number of levels."

Building a health and safety culture

In her 14 years as general manager, Anna has worked steadily to implement a comprehensive health and safety program, as well as a culture to give it life. "Anna is extremely dedicated to growing her business," says WSPS consultant Jeff Pedlow, who has worked with Anna and Tony for years. "Anna's initial challenge was understanding what they needed to do. Then the challenge became how to effectively manage the facility's growing health and safety program."

"Businesses from large to small all have challenges in understanding what's new in health and safety, and how they can best leverage it to engage employees and improve their bottom line," says Jeff. "This is where WSPS can help. Over the years we've connected Anna to consulting services, products and, through our Safety Group, regulatory updates and best practices that Anna and Tony can implement in their facility."

Businesses that join a Safety Group receive rebates on their WSIB premiums if they collectively improve their health and safety performance. They achieve this by implementing core elements of a health and safety program, often with the help of other members who share tips and experiences. Group meetings are facilitated by a WSPS consultant, who also works one-on-one with members and helps them tap into WSPS resources.

"We already had many program elements in place," says Tony D'Araino, "but the Safety Group has been a great support mechanism for refining our program."

Living a health and safety culture

As general manager, Anna McNutt chose to get personally involved in health and safety. "You can't ask somebody to do something that you won't do yourself," she says. To this end, Anna

  • prepares hotel policies, standards and procedures with Tony, who also serves as employer co-chair of the joint health and safety committee (JHSC), and other members of her management team.
  • attends HSC meetings. These meetings are open to all staff. "It is so rewarding to see associates engage in what we consider a continuous improvement process."
  • organizes and attends regular lunch and learn workshops.
  • leads a group huddle every morning. "So much is covered in 15 minutes daily that it’s become the core of our safety communications," says Anna. "It's the best of the best."
  • promotes an open door policy. "Our doors are always open for questions, suggestions, demonstrations and coaching," says Tony.

The result: people experience senior leadership commitment firsthand and are quick to step up.

"Anna's strong leadership and commitment to engaging employees have really paid off," says Jeff Pedlow. "We at WSPS are here as enablers to assist all businesses in overcoming challenges. Anna taps into this whenever an opportunity arises. Like any manager of a small business, she particularly appreciates the learning and networking available through our Safety Group, as well as instant access to resources and expertise."

 

 

Retail

Machine guarding

Turning an incident into an opportunity

"We're operating in a highly competitive market that's changing all the time," says Kelly Swain. "We run a very tight crew and our customers expect quick, accurate service, so there's no room for mistakes."

Kelly is administrative sales assistant for Woollatt Building Supply in London, a small business that supplies builders and contractors throughout southern Ontario. The 1.5-acre facility houses a retail outlet, a saw shed, and a full inventory of building materials. The company also delivers materials to customers with a radio-dispatched fleet of flatbed, boom and pick-up trucks.

Like most small business employees, Kelly wears many hats. One is safety. She's the health and safety rep and a first aid responder. "From a business perspective alone, we need our staff to stay safe. If one of them is down, then a truck may be down, meaning we can't deliver product in a timely manner. This affects our competitiveness. But having an employee down also affects us personally. We all know each other, some of us for years."

An incident last winter brought this home: an employee was knocked unconscious after falling off a flatbed truck. "It was a scary moment for everyone," says Kelly. It also made the company aware that the workplace may pose more hazards than anyone realized. In the aftermath, Kelly called WSPS.

Stepping stones toward prevention

"Kelly wanted to know what they could do to prevent this from happening again," explains Paul Mansfield, a WSPS account manager based in London who is now Kelly's go-to person at WSPS. "We suggested starting with an on-site visit."

Kelly gave Paul and WSPS consultant Gord Leffley a tour of the site and walked them through the incident. "Our goal was to help the company identify an on-site engineering control that would eliminate the risk of falling from the flatbeds," says Paul. "Gord's recommendation was a rolling ladder, which enables workers to ascend and descend safely and quickly. It was simple and cost-effective. We also encouraged Kelly to write a procedure for loading trucks safely. Having procedures in place establishes performance expectations that help promote a safety culture."

Given the range of activities at the facility, Paul also connected Kelly with two other WSPS experts: a racking specialist and an ergonomist. Informal consultations like these are available at no cost to WSPS member firms. "Having an expert observe how things are done can often generate easy-to-implement solutions that a business may not have thought of," says Paul. "Sometimes it's just a matter of doing things differently."

Kelly acted on many of the suggestions, including making ergonomic adjustments to her own workstation. "I can speak firsthand to this," says Kelly. "I'm definitely feeling more comfortable, which helps me be more productive."

Other steps include arranging for a supervisor to take WSPS' course on inspecting and maintaining steel storage racks, and joining a WSPS Knowledge and Network Exchange (NKE) chapter.

"The NKE is a natural fit for Kelly," says Paul. "The meetings bring together people with health and safety responsibilities so that they can network, help each other out with health and safety issues, learn about new requirements, and tap into WSPS resources. Members also develop a richer understanding of how health and safety contributes to organizational performance - an essential step in establishing and sustaining a safety culture."

Kelly's long-term goal is to make her co-workers' jobs as safe and productive possible. "It's a solid business strategy," says Paul. "Serious injuries and property loss can have a devastating effect on a small business. And as Kelly's account manager, I can help her address the company's immediate needs, but also introduce her to the full range of solutions we offer - hazard assessments, program development, courses, free downloads, networking… we're a conduit for ongoing information and communication, and solutions."

For Kelly it started with just one phone call.

 

 

Vehicle Sales and Service

Machine guarding

Building Safety into the Business: One Muffler Store Owner's Story

Jack Walton, owner of five Midas Muffler stores in Markham, Newmarket, Oshawa, Richmond Hill, and Scarborough, is an all-in kind of guy. No half measures here.

Back in 2007, one of his employees sustained a serious back injury while directing a customer's car onto a hoist. Instead of braking, the customer accelerated, striking the employee and forcing him backwards into a pipe bender. His back has never been the same. Neither has Jack.

"I always thought I had a health and safety program, but I realized later there's a lot more to it than a first aid kit and maybe an eye wash station."

The gap became fully apparent when the WSIB sent him documentation in advance of a Workwell audit. "There had to be 600 pages. It scared the hell out of me."

Workwell audits help companies improve their health and safety program. It's a rigorous process, and Jack had no idea where to begin. He brought in an HR colleague, Richard Green, as a consultant, and together they reached out to WSPS. "We met with Lori McIlwraith, and that got the ball rolling."

Jack understood early on he had to put a comprehensive framework in place, not just for the audit, but for everybody in the organization.

"Your most valuable asset is your people. Why wouldn't you take care of your people the way you take care of your equipment?"

Jack also understood he couldn't make this happen on his own. "I realized everybody in the organization is responsible for health and safety. The question became how to make health and safety an integral part of our business processes on a daily basis? This is what Lori helped us with."

"I saw very quickly that Jack needed a health and safety manual," says Lori, a WSPS key accounts manager. WSPS manuals help businesses of any size develop, implement and sustain a far-reaching health and safety program.

"As we developed the program, Jack was very open to any recommendation I had. His approach was, 'If that's the right thing to do, we'll do it.' But as a business owner, he also knew the program had to be manageable. How could his staff implement the manual's tools in their day-to-day life without adding more work? I was happy to work with Jack and Richard on this. Health and safety programs are most effective when they're top down, and built into a business's daily performance expectations."

When the manual was ready, Jack, Richard and Lori sat down with the store managers. "We said here's what we're going to do, here's what the expectations are, here are some tools, and from this point forward, you're all expected to do it. And they got it," says Lori. "They understood its importance to the business and to the person running the business, and that it was the way of the future."

After the managers, each employee received training. It continues to be an organizational priority. "I just hired a new person," says Jack. "He's been in the trade for 16 years, but on his first day he didn't touch a car. He spent the whole day taking WHMIS training, familiarizing himself with safe operating procedures, everything to do with health and safety."

Today, says Lori, you can see evidence of a health and safety culture all around you. "Even little things, such as how people are storing tools and chemicals, and how clean and tidy they keep the shops. Details like these tell me that all of Jack's people take safety seriously, and that any workplace can improve its health and safety performance by taking manageable steps that alter what they do on a daily basis."

"Customers pick up on this too. They see a clean, well-organized environment in which people are happy to be doing what they're doing. All of this creates value for customers and staff."

The last words go to Jack.

"If I hadn't done this, I may not still have this business. It certainly wouldn't be as profitable. But at the end of the day, if you have a successful business, it's not because of you. It's because of your people."