Safety front-and-centre: Fleet Services wins North American award

When the City of Edmonton Fleet Services Branch management decided to shake up and re-energize the branch’s safety and environmental culture a few years ago, it catalyzed a buy-in from all staff that paid off – big-time – for everyone.

There was an immediate payoff internally. And externally, the Branch won first prize for excellence in fleet safety from the NAFA Fleet Management Association.

The shakeup is directly responsible for safety stats that would make any organization proud – both lost-time injury frequency and injury severity have been cut in half compared to six years ago!

How did they do it?

Before the shake-up, Fleet Services did have a safety and environmental committee structure in place for its 700+ employees working at 15 facilities, but Occupational Health & Safety consultant Christie Boone says committees didn’t have full representation of front-line staff and some levels of management.

“It was also more like a top-down delivery mechanism for safety-related messages that came from safety people and management. Committee members were not specifically empowered to take action on their own,” she says.

Under the new structure, safety is managed at the facility level by a line committee made up of front line staff, foremen and supervisors. In addition to working with the Branch level committee, OH&S staff provide support and work closely with the facility line committees, which meet at least monthly.

The committees are empowered to report and investigate all incidents that occur in their facilities to determine contributing and root causes to ensure appropriate actions are put in place. It’s the responsibility of the shop to share these lessons learned through the Safety & Enviso Committee structure, enabling all facilities to learn from the incident.

“That way, everyone learns, and everyone is reminded why they should report incidents” says Christie.

A very good example of this principle in action is a serious safety incident in the recent past that involved a tow truck and two Fleet Services employees.

The on-site Safety & Environment committee circulated their findings and recommendations to other similar committees, then took it to the branch-level committee for discussion. The result is a compelling, straight-talking video that speaks to the strong culture of safety within the organization.

Despite both employees recognizing that they each had a part to play in  what happened that day, they felt empowered to share their story and lessons learned across the branch.

“This kind of behaviour is something to be celebrated as it sends a powerful message to other employees that above all, here at  Fleet Services we’ll learn from the incidents that occur to keep each other safe,” says Christie.

“The bottom line is that branch staff have taken ownership of safety in their workplaces,” says Branch Manager Steve Rapanos. “The concept of safety has transformed from just posters on the bulletin board to a subject that’s right at the front of peoples’ minds on a minute-to-minute basis.”

“Fleet Services people have embodied what it means to share the responsibility for safety, says Christie. “More and more, formal and informal safety leaders are showing up at all levels of our organization. We hold ourselves and each other accountable for keeping safety the top priority.

“It’s this mindset that will keep our people safe.”

Christie Boone, Fleet Services’ Occupational Health & Safety consultant, accepted the NAFA award for excellence in fleet safety at a gala dinner in Orlando, Florida.
Christie Boone, Fleet Services’ Occupational Health & Safety consultant, accepted the NAFA award for excellence in fleet safety at a gala dinner in Orlando, Florida.