Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility—from the front office to the shop to the project site. But like any workplace policy or procedure, one person cutting a corner or taking a shortcut can quickly lead to a breakdown in safety and potential injuries or deaths.
Tyler Scott, president and owner of ACE Safety Solutions in Kitchener, has seen it happen over nearly three decades of business supporting the construction industry. Safety support, policy writing, project safety inspections, and health and safety training are all required to continue to build the safest environment for the industry. He says the success of building a safety-first workplace culture comes down to personality.
“If there isn’t support from the owner, senior management, or supervisor ignoring safety or bypassing it, that attitude trickles down. The culture helps your team make those safety decisions,” says Scott.
Creating a safety-first culture does more than reduce the potential of accidents. It will help companies retain current employees and attract the next generation of skilled tradespeople. Scott says ACE Safety Solutions is already seeing the latter take effect across its clients as more younger people enter the construction industry.
“When we first started, safety wasn’t even a line item in a budget. Now, everyone coming into the workforce expects safety to be part of the job. For current employees, the market is very tight, and we have seen a lot of people who have walked away because of a lack of focus on safety,” says Scott.
Promoting a safety-first culture is also becoming a business requirement across the province. Many municipalities are beginning to require construction companies to have Certificate of Recognition (COR) certification to bid on projects. COR is an employer certification program demonstrating employees are trained to actively participate in workplace health and safety.
Scott says that the need for COR certification can lead some companies to pursue it on paper while not building the required policies and procedures into their workplace safety culture. He adds that he has received calls asking about getting COR-certified quickly, and companies are often shocked to hear that it can take anywhere from 18 months to two years.
Another challenge with COR is that it creates many documentation requirements for each project. Scott says that some companies start strong with the new processes but quickly turn to copying and pasting answers to get through the paperwork and on to the project.
“If the reason for COR is to bid on jobs, then this will eventually happen. COR works when the drive is workplace safety. We have a lot of clients who have come to us saying they want to improve their safety programs because of safety incidents. They tell me they don’t want it to happen again, and that attitude is what makes COR work,” says Scott.
ACE Safety Solutions is an approved provider of the WSIB Ontario Health & Safety Excellence program, which is similar to COR certification. They are one of 20 approved providers in the province with a 99% success rate for submissions and navigation through the program.
“We determine an appropriate topic, we create a policy on it, and then we make it a living and breathing part of our client’s workplace. Take first aid. We’ll write a new policy for the client and ensure all their workers are trained. But that’s only the start. We then make sure that kits are inspected every month and that they’re doing training for new employees. The client is doing all this work to improve their safety program, and WSIB gives them a significant premium rebate. It’s a great program,” says Scott.
Leaving the workplace safely at the end of the day is the goal of every company and every tradesperson, but Scott says we often have the mindset that nothing will happen to us.
“Nobody thinks anything is going to happen to them. So a lot of times, they will say, ‘I’m not going to fall, why do I have to be tied off?’ Making that decision to do it has to be part of the culture. The motto has to be, ‘This is what we do, and this is the way we do it.’ That can be for safety, quality, or production,” says Scott.