Pattison Agriculture signed a “Mission: Zero” charter on June 13, 2018, a program of WorkSafe Saskatchewan, which is a call to action to achieve zero workplace injuries, fatalities and suffering. We believe that goal can be accomplished by recognizing that all unintentional injuries are predictable and preventable.

I joined the dealership team in May of 2018 and, with the support of our President Arthur Ward, created a safety program that now has buy-in from nearly 500 employees across 19 locations in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Why Care About Safety?

Regulation compliance drives safety programs at many companies, but there are other reasons why a comprehensive safety program is in your dealership’s best interest.

For instance, lowering workplace injuries may reduce the premiums you pay for workers compensation insurance. Safety programs could reduce costs related to replacing injured workers or repairing equipment or facilities damaged from an accident. An unsafe workplace could deter jobseekers, while a dealership that has been recognized for workplace safety could attract future employees.

Finally, and most importantly, your employees want to be able to go to work and return home to their families, injury-free. It’s our job to make sure that happens, every day.

Developing Safety Procedures

When I joined the company, Pattison Agriculture had some safety procedures in place, but not a complete program. My first task was to work hand-in-hand with our employees, visiting them at their locations. I needed their advice to create procedures that we could share across the company.

Throughout this process, it was critical to have the support of Art Ward, our president. He always has an open door for me to talk to him directly about the program and he sends me ideas as well. Art also backs up my efforts. For instance, when I send out an email, he follows it up with his own email to explain why changes are being made, to encourage participation and to emphasize the dealership’s safety commitment.

Educating Employees

Our safety program involves ongoing education and engagement with employees. It starts with training that I do for every new hire, either in person or through a Skype meeting. We also have internal trainers that will go on site to train staff for a specific skill, such as forklift or crane operations.

I send out a weekly email on a safety topic that can be discussed at each location during their weekly Toolbox Talk. At first, there wasn’t much discussion at the weekly sessions, but when I emphasized that my goal was to help them get home safely and I also asked questions about the hazards they were seeing, that helped develop trust and encourage interaction.

These ongoing weekly sessions are also a time for employees to review any incidents or “near misses.” Those incidents are documented on near miss cards, where an employee explains when and where the incident happened, what equipment was involved, along with identifying the cause. We then share these incidents across the company because it if is happening in one place, I can guarantee it’s happening somewhere else. We don’t share the person’s name or location because our approach is not to point fingers, but to focus on the incident.

A pilot project is under way to add safety hazards to work orders. This had been done previously, in a “check box” method. Our new approach is to have team members identify the hazard and how they will address preventing them. The work order cannot be closed until the safety portion is completed.

Monitoring the Program

We are constantly monitoring the program through audits and site visits. I believe in a “boots-on-the-ground” approach — and I walk in directly and start conversations. I don’t hide around the corner and take photos of what they might be doing wrong. The more time I spend talking with the team, the more comfortable they are with me and they’re now coming to me on their own to discuss safety.

Pattison Agriculture also takes its safety message to the community and hosts an annual farm safety day for children. These children could be our future customers or employees and we want to help them understand safety hazards in the workplace and on the farm.