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From the monthly archives: February 2011
Northern Opportunities: A Pretty Good Deal
Ryan Gilmore was frustrated with high school and considered dropping out. Then he learned of the dual credit programs offered by the Northern Opportunities… [read more]
Open to Everyone
Nicole Schartner says she is glad to be in the Power Engineering program at GPRC (Grande Prairie Regional College) Fairview Campus not only because she… [read more]
Fort St. John: Energized & Ready to Roll
Priding itself on being a family friendly community, Fort St. John still manages to find plenty of room for industry and business. “There’s tons… [read more]
Education Expands its Role
With an increased labour shortage looming, governments and educators in the West are scrambling to find measures to offset what could be, and in some cases… [read more]
Marketing: that mystical and all-encompassing skill that, once mastered, can sell anything to anyone, right? Well, not without ground work.
First, let’s establish that marketing is just a $20 word for sales. Before you even think about marketing, you need to establish that whatever it is you are trying to sell must have someone interested in buying it. But not only that, they must buy it at a profit. If there’s no buyer or you don’t make any money, you won’t be in business long. With this in mind, that profitable buyer now becomes your market.
Next, you need to know everything you can about your market, otherwise known as market research: Who they are, how many there are, where they live, what they like, what they believe etc. This information will allow you to most effectively reach them to let them know that you have what they need and/or want.
This information will allow you to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your product or service (SWOT analysis). Do you offer lower prices or faster service than your competition? Are you located off the beaten path? Do you have any new competitors? Or is there an opportunity for you to market to a new audience?
When you’ve gathered all of this information you will know how your product or service fits into the marketplace. What price your customers are willing to pay and whether or not it is competitive.
How you should reach your customers with your product or service and how and what you will use to promote it to your target audience. These steps are often referred to as the 4 P’s of marketing: product, price, place and promotion.
Gathering this volume of information may seem a little over-the-top but it’s all about trust. Would you trust someone you didn’t know? You need to use all of this information to build a relationship with your market. Your customers need to not only like you, they need to trust you and what you’re selling more than any of your competitors.
When you have established this you have more than just customers, you have loyalty and loyal customers will refer you to their families and friends. This process, in its entirety, is marketing. You have reached and motivated a customer to buy.
“No matter what your business claims to do or provide, you’re actually in the marketing business. Marketing is an all-encompassing outlook that must inform every activity of your business. When you discover this outlook, marketing your business gets really, really easy,” said John Jantsch in his book, Duct Tape Marketing – The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guild.
Every business is in the business of sales. No sales – no business. Information is power so the more you know about the marketplace you’re planning to play in, the more powerful and effective your marketing or sales presence will be.
Do your homework and if you plan to have continued success, continue to do your homework. As times, whims and markets change, you need to know and react. Marketing is therefore an ongoing and exciting process.
For more information on this article, or to contact The Centre for Research & Innovation call (780) 539-2807, toll free at 1-877-539-2808, email info@TheCRI.ca or visit our website at www.TheCRI.ca .
Fort St. John isn’t just about growth, it’s about growth that lasts. Opportunity in that community isn’t just personal, it’s a community asset. And opportunities abound in an environment that supports the whole community as well as the component parts.
“This is an energetic and entrepreneurial area and it will always draw people,” said Mayor Bruce Lantz. That sentiment was echoed by Chamber of Commerce president Andrew Tylosky.
“There’s opportunity here for anyone that wants it,” he said.
“We’ve got some really great success stories here locally where people that are sometimes seen as competitors are working together and I think we’re very open to doing that in this market. People are willing to complement each other and work together to get the job done. I think that’s a big part of being successful here.”
And as he points out, it’s all about the people. Whether than means providing the right climate for development, family friendly resources or innovative recruitment and retention strategies, Fort St John is willing and welcoming.
With a grow rate of 2.5 per cent, the growth is there but remains sustainable and allows for a more methodical and effective approach to development.
“This is perceived as a growth centre and business people are seeing that they want to be here. It’s prosperous, it’s young, so people are seeing that as a good business environment. But that’s only half of the equation,” said Lantz.
“In order to locate businesses or business offices here, you have to be a family friendly community because those business people will be bringing their spouses and their children.”
A thriving arts and cultural scene, one of the best educational systems in the province (by Ministry of Education definition), great recreational facilities, wonderful outdoor opportunities us and the first new hospital to be built in the province in 20 years currently under construction all build a foundation that supports residents.
“People are prepared to make the investments in this community. They understand that we’re under-served in some areas and since becoming chamber president, I’ve had a lot of conversations with business people, local business people, even people from surrounding areas…saying ‘we’ve got our eye on Fort St. John. It looks like a hot market. Tell us more’,” said Tylosky.
Reserve funds and development cost charges, which Fort St. John is in the process of implementing, will help ensure that growth can pay for itself rather than be downloaded on the backs of taxpayers.
“We’re looking at making our utilities self-sustaining so that they won’t be a drain on the taxpayer except in the sense that they will pay for what they use. Water rates are continually under review so that people who use more will pay more and people who use less will benefit,” explained Lantz.
That doesn’t mean Fort St. John doesn’t have its share of challenges. Like so many other communities, infrastructure remains an issue. Municipalities in Canada are not structured to be financially self-sustaining, he added, and he said he would like to see something done about that.
Transfer payments from the province have been wiped out, and at the same time, municipalities were handed additional responsibilities.
“That stretches the balloon way too tight and something has to burst at some point,” said Lantz.
“The biggest challenge facing virtually any municipality in Canada is infrastructure. Whether a community is growing or not, they have pipes in the ground that are aging and they have to be able to replace those. That’s your infrastructure deficit. Fort St. John has an infrastructure deficit approaching $1 million. In Canada, municipalities face infrastructure deficits of over $31 billion. We can keep pace with the growth that’s coming in. The challenge is to catch up with the aging infrastructure that needs replacing,” said Lantz.
“What we want to see now are discussions with senior government as to how we can have a more equitable system of money transfer coming from senior government to municipalities to help us sustain ourselves and provide the amenities that our citizens not only want to have, but need to have in order to be able to live and work in these municipal environments.”
If successful, Lantz said it would provide a stability and predictability to planning, which would mean a community could plan without automatically assuming there would be tax increases or that borrowing would be necessary. Tax dollars could then be used to defray the infrastructure deficit.
Fort St. John has, despite those issues, been able to do comparatively well both in minimizing tax increases and provident necessary infrastructure. Fort St. John has made the most of provincial opportunities and so Fair Share dollars and other provincial grants have provided an adequate stopgap in dealing with the community’s needs.
“I think we’ve got the infrastructure overall. As far as transportation goes, we still have some challenges – the highways, air travel is a concern of course. The cost of flying in and out of here is very expensive but we have those facilities at least available, which is more than you can say for other areas,” said Tylosky.
Even the recent economic crisis was an opportunity for locals.
“We were hit, but not as bad as a lot of areas. It was, for a lot of companies, it just ended up being a reality check after so many years of going crazy. Fort St. John in 2005 was not a very fun place to be because nobody could find staff, it was frustrating as can be. Running a business, being a citizen, getting services anywhere, it was difficult for a lot of people,” said Tylosky.
“We kind of came through that and in 2008/2009, things were very, very difficult for some of our members. There were some companies that shut their doors and others that seriously had to trim back. There was a lot of fear at the time about what was going on and what was going to happen. Overall, I think, the service industry and our energy companies just took the opportunity to get down to basics, trim whatever fat was in the organization, and everybody’s stronger now because of it.”
Both Tylosky and Lantz agree that being at the centre of the area is a benefit to Fort St. John. Its location at the hub of activity makes the community a natural focal point for both people and business.
As the largest community in not only Northeastern BC, but in all of Northern BC, people look to Fort St. John for leadership and to provide a strong voice that represents concerns that span the region.
“They see Fort St. John as an economic driver for Northeastern BC. When you look at the business community, we have one of the strongest in Northern BC so we have a responsibility to take that leadership role and do something with it,” said Lantz. While that cooperative attitude flows from local government and where realistic, invites Northwestern Alberta communities to joint them, the issue of Alberta/British Columbia competition is still an issue. Businesses and governments alike want to see healthy, fair competition – something that doesn’t always happen at the moment.
“I think, in the energy industry there was a lot of concern about the HST. I think a lot of those things have figured themselves out but competition from Alberta based firms coming into BC to work, buying their gas in Alberta, bringing it across the border, not paying carbon tax on it and using it to compete with BC based firms who are buying their fuel locally and paying whatever it is now, the $0.07/litre fuel tax, that puts a serious competitive pressure on local companies,” said Tylosky.
“And so we put forth a policy last year through the BC Chamber AGM about leveling the playing field and looking at things that can help BC based companies be tax competitive and make sure that the regulations and everything are as streamlined as possible to make sure that it can go both ways and that out of province firms, are paying our taxes, are following our regulations and are doing the same as a BC firm would do.”
It’s not about what can’t be done; it’s about what can. Business and government are both focused on the long term and providing more than uncontrolled growth. They want to see a sustainable environment on all levels that allows those in Fort St. John to take advantage of its opportunities in the moment and for the long-term.
What is a life worth? Some people think it’s only as much as a safety ticket and are willing to risk not only their own but others’ lives just to take a shortcut to their safety tickets.
Even one fraudulent safety ticket is too many. And yet there have been more than that in Northeastern BC lately says Fort St. John Enform acting manager Lucie Janosek. She indicated that most of the fraudulent certificates that have been uncovered were in the Fort St. John and Fort Nelson areas.
“Enform has contacted the RCMP and they are investigating,” said Enform safety manager Jeff Safioles indicating how seriously officials are taking the incidents.
While the Fort St. John RCMP detachment was not able to confirm any details about the investigation, they did say that criminal investigations into fraudulent safety tickets aren’t something that happens very often.
As to how many there are out there, Safioles said they could only gauge by how many they have in their hands.
“So far we’ve identified 10 or 12 in the last couple of months,” he reported. “There’s a lot of different ways that fraud is being perpetrated, especially for these temporary H2S certificates.”
The real danger, he explained, isn’t the potential legal or financial liability to employers or fraudulent ticket holders. It’s that people could get hurt or killed because someone took a shortcut to competency.
“One of the reasons we have this training, and we train over 100,000 people a year, is that people were dying prior to us having mandatory, good H2S training,” said Safioles.
Most of those caught holding fraudulent tickets have told officials that they got them through legitimate channels, said Safioles, who was unwilling to speculate on the veracity of those assertions.
“We have had several examples in our possession, of fraudulent or modified temporary certificates for H2S Alive…It’s one of the major courses that are required,” said Safioles.
The types of fraud Enform reports to have in their possession are tickets where people have taken and either an existing ticket and tried to modify the expiry date, tried to use another person’s certificate that is still valid and then try and put their name in there.
“The other thing we’ve seen is outright fraud where we have somebody taking an old Enform temporary certificate and putting a fraudulent instructor number and course number in, and putting the student’s name in there,” said Safioles.
Perpetrators have even gone to the point of modifying the thermo chromatic ink on the Enform temporary certificates, he added.
Enform uses the ink, which temporarily changes colour when breathed on, as one of their security measures. They also use a microprint too small to see with a cursory glance but which Enform can identify.
“The last ones I was talking about all have the same certificate number, so we’ve seen four or five, which we know would never happen,” said Safioles.
Most of the fraudulent certificates in Enform’s possession were discovered when people tried to go onto a job site. Most of the people who are checking are familiar with valid certificates and what to look for and who the legitimate instructors are.
“As the industry got busier, there was more demand for it and unfortunately, people are trying to shortcut an important safety step here,” said Safioles.
If it looks like a certificate has been obviously modified, an expiry date being typed in instead of being part of the certificate for example, or if security features aren’t intact, Safioles suggests it is important not to take chances but to have the certificate investigated.
“I think it’s really important that we know about this because people are checking,” he said. “To the industry, our message is ‘Good Job’, keep checking and keep calling us when you are checking at your job site and you see something that’s suspicious.”
Enform is in the process of sending out an industry alert that will indicate what to look for and what can be done as well as information about what Enform is doing about this situation.
Anyone suspecting they are in possession of or having someone use a certificate that is questionable, should contact either Safioles by email at Jeff.Safioles@enform.ca or by calling 780-955-6010. They can also contact their local Enform office.
Enform, the safety association for Canada’s upstream oil and gas industry, is the advocate and leading resource for the continuous improvement of industry’s safety performance. Established by industry for industry, Enform helps companies achieve their safety goals by promoting shared safety practices and providing effective training, expert audit services and professional advice. Their vision is no work-related incidents or injuries in the Canadian upstream oil and gas industry.
Ergonomics is one of the most important aspects when it comes to worker safety.
When people think of ergonomics – the science of designing a job or task to fit the capabilities of the worker – the automatic perception is office setup, computer chairs and keyboards and not heavy industry.
However ergonomics is widespread and can be applied to workers in just about any job or activity. It considers the factors of body position, force exerted, repetition and duration. Many times workers forget this and will work past the point of pain resulting in an injury, usually musculoskeletal, that could have been avoided.
These injuries can cost companies billions of dollars each year. The costs of workers’ compensation, time loss, and reduced productivity can be devastating to companies.
Many times the environment, tools and tasks are simply not appropriate for the worker who is performing the job duty thus causing injury. Musculoskeletal (muscle, joint and bone) injuries (MSIs) are the most common type of injury in heavy industry.
So whose job is it to prevent back injuries – the worker’s or the employer’s? Both have a role to play, explained Deborah Goodwin a Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist (CCPE) based out of Edmonton.
Goodwin said while humans are capable of doing many things, our backs are susceptible to injury. She added, statistics show that back injuries lead to more lost days of work than any other kind of injury or illness.
Risk factors can be found in just about any occupation from the construction site to the office, and employees need to understand the risk factors. The potential for musculoskeletal injuries increases if work activities and job conditions involve any of the following: frequent manual material handling, exposure to extreme temperatures, exposure to excessive vibration, repetitive motion or awkward work positions and lifting of heavy or awkward items.
“If a job or task exceeds a worker’s capabilities the likelihood of an acute or chronic injury increases,” she said.
Goodwin, who received her degree from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, said there is an acronym she uses for workers to remember while they’re in the field.
“It’s called T.I.L.E.E,” she said. “Which is the Task, the Individual, the Load, the Environment and Equipment.”
Goodwin said TILEE is a quick reminder for employees to assist them in performing their duties safely. She broke it down in this way:
• Task – what needs to be moved or handled and in what way.
• Individual – be aware of your capabilities and limitations. “Not everybody can do the same amount or level of work,” Goodwin said. “Be self aware and if you need help, ask for assistance.”
• Load – Does it have sharp edges? What is the chemical content? Does it have handles, is it an awkward shape? And of course, the weight. Can you take it in separate loads?
• Environment – What is the space you’re working in? “Sometimes you’re working in a nice indoor controlled environment with a good floor and nothing to slip on,” Goodwin said. “But a lot of times this work is being done outside. You have to consider uneven ground, snow, ice or other traffic.”
• Equipment – Pallet jacks, pulley systems, cranes. What equipment can you use to make your job easier? Goodwin said, even throwing down a little sand on and around an icy section and wearing the proper footwear and gloves can make the difference.
“Ultimately the main thing with these five reminders is to plan the activity before doing it,” she said. “This allows them to identify any risks and address them before doing the activity.”
From 2006 to 2010 the top five types of accidents across all industries in Alberta were due to overexertion, making up almost a third of all types of accidents.
“And that’s where ergonomics ties in so tightly,” Goodwin said. “If you have good ergonomic design to a job, you are controlling the amount of force or effort required to do a task and how it is done. And therefore you make the task safer to do and reduce the risk of injury.”
For the same time period, Goodwin said the body part that was most affected by lost time claims was the back.
“And again, that’s over one third of injuries tend to affect the back … with sprains and strains making up over half of the total lost time claims,” she said.
The statistics don’t stray far throughout heavy industry. According to statistics, Goodwin said, both falls and over-exertions are the top two injuries in both oilfield maintenance and construction, and industrial construction.
“It’s a highly recognized issue,” Goodwin said.
And that’s where the employer can step in and make sure the equipment and proper training is supplied to workers, allowing them to work smarter, not harder.
The issue of safety is a two-part system with employers needing to assess the jobs their employers want them to do and to provide the appropriate training so they can do those jobs safety, said Goodwin.
“That includes safe manual materials handling,” she said. “But then the employees or workers also have their responsibility to utilize and apply the training they receive to their day-to-day work.”
In fact, in Alberta it’s law under the Code.
In the most recent revision of the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act Regulation and Code that came into effect in June 2009, it states in part 14 of lifting and handling loads, 208(1) “an employer must provide where reasonably practicable appropriate equipment for lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying, handling or transporting heavy or awkward loads.” They must also ensure that workers use the equipment provided.
And down the page in section 210(2) it states before a worker performs any manual … handling activities an employer must perform a hazard assessment that considers the worker’s physical and mental capabilities to perform the work.”
“It’s not just a ‘nice to have’,” Redden said. “It’s an actual requirement under the code.”
The laws are similar across the border in British Columbia according to WorksafeBC. Employers are responsible for ensuring that the Ergonomics MSI Requirements, sections 4.46 to 4.53 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, are compiled with.
But it’s not only those in the manual labour aspect of industry that ergonomics affects.
Operators of heavy equipment have elevated reports of musculoskeletal discomfort. Awkward postures, whole body vibration, jarring and static sitting are all connected to back problems. The proper cab layout can make all the difference.
“Their (heavy equipment operator) seats are dynamic seating systems,” Goodwin said. “It’s to help reduce the amount of vibration and shock going straight to the person’s back. Interior cab design has become very important.”
In her report entitled Heavy Mobile Equipment, Ergonomics and the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries, Linda Miller of Edmonton’s EWI Works International Inc. states the layout and location of the seat and controls can be a challenge which in turn creates problems in posture and movement of the drivers. Designing the equipment to fit the worker rather than having the worker adjust to fit the equipment is essential in minimizing the risk of injury and discomfort.
“The interior of the cab requires a full range of adjustment capabilities and features that can accommodate the 5th to 95th percentile of the population,” she writes. “This includes layout and location of the seat, steering wheel, controls, pedals, adjustability features, visibility of the tasks and overall cab dimensions.
“It’s important to educate and train the user to identify factors that can increase the intensity as well as decrease the impact of heavy equipment operation.”
WorkSafeBC states from 1991-2005, 22 per cent of injuries in construction/heavy industry in that province were back injuries. MSIs are also the leading cause of time-loss injury for workers in the construction sector, representing 18 per cent of compensation loss.
WorksafeBC’s website states the best way to prevent back strain and MSIs is to have a comprehensive occupational health and safety program in your workplace – something that is easier now than ever before.
Over the years the overall profile of ergonomics has increased across the board.
“There is a lot greater awareness of the need for it now,” Goodwin said. “People now have more context and understanding about ergonomics.”
For more information on ergonomics in the workplace, there are a lot of resources available through unions, WorksafeBC and the Workers Compensation Board (WCB).
Goodwin said, companies can also hire independent consultants for individual reviews should they choose. However she added to make sure they’re properly qualified.“Look into the credentials of the consultants they are hiring,” she said. “A good one to look for within Canada is the CCPE designation. CPE (Certified Professional Ergonomist) is another comparable credential from the States.”
Surerus Pipeline Inc. is a Fort St. John based pipeline construction company, founded in 1969 by Brian Surerus. He has expanded over the past 41 years from a small contractor, to a large pipeline contractor and last fall Surerus achieved a significant and impressive safety milestone. NWB editor Joei Warm asked him about that accomplishment and what it took to get there.
NWB: Can you tell us about your achievement?
SS: On Oct. 16, 2010 we achieved 2-million man-hours without a lost time incident. That includes all people directly under our supervision – that would be our own employees and subcontractors and our permanent administrative personnel and shop people, but the vast majority of our man-hours come from our projects.
In that time we did have a number of large projects (anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 man-hours per project) which creates more man-hours in a shorter amount of time…and they were all completed successfully without lost time incidents.
The stats that we have are for the last three years. In that time we’ve had over 1,200 different people work for us on different projects, since we’re a project based organization. At our peak, the highest point of time during that period, we had just under 500 people working at one time. That’s where the numbers come from.
NWB: What do you attribute that success to?
SS: Well, there is a great deal of buy-in to health and safety from our leadership and we’ve had some strong supervisors in the field of course because that’s where the man-hours are. We have good connection between our programs and the way that they’re administered in the field. And then we have good leaders on the projects who actually ensure that we do what we say we’re going to do. That’s the biggest key to our success. We have a strong health and safety manager, his name is John Steward, who has really helped guide us in an appropriate and professional direction since his arrival in 2004.
NWB: While most companies have similar goals, not everyone is able to achieve what Surerus has. What do you think sets your company apart?
SS: The key is that the management of the organization has truly bought into this as being something that is an advantage for us and we also have the systems that are set up that really do preclude people from putting themselves into more high-risk positions, high-risk opportunities for injury.
So because we’re organized, and because we’ve had some pretty much consistent work, we’ve been able to use the same supervisors and that’s allowed us to provide more training over the past three years for each of these people. They’re more familiar with the way we work and the way that the projects are delivered and that continuity and consistency is one of the keys for sure in why we’ve had success.
Quite honestly, we still have incidents it’s just the level of severity of the incidents are diminishing and that’s largely through mitigating the potential hazards, being aware of the hazards, and sharing those hazard opportunities with our people.
NWB: Can you comment on the trend toward a greater emphasis on safety?
SS: We’ve started just like everyone else with an industry standard level and we took the reins on our own to make this a core value. In general, in the entire industry the level of safety has definitely improved and it hasn’t always been the contractor recognizing that, that’s important.
It’s been from the owner companies mandating it and of course when they raise the minimum standard, everyone’s standard increases. There’s no question that the contractors have been cajoled essentially into bringing up our standards, but it’s been for the benefit of all the contractors.
The people who work for us work for other contractors or other energy companies all around western Canada so, from our perspective, there’s a benefit to the industry when we are able to have a person come work for us and leave here with a few different skills that they may not acquire on other projects, and we provide them a few tools on the project where they are actively participating. It’s not just top down there’s actually a lot of grassroots involvement in our program.
NWB: Has there been any opposition?
SS: Internally we’ve always had a battle with people who say they’ve done it one way for a long time but I think that with the amount of leadership we’ve had, being able to have the grassroots buy-in – we have a program which is a behavior based opportunity card program that we call the BBOs and we allow our people to participate in a rewards based program based on their activity using these cards and so it’s kind of negated a lot of the pushback.
And of course the majority of the weight goes onto the foreman and the direct supervisors for the guys but I think that when they see that the collective of having success they feel part of it and there’s far less pushback than one would imagine with the amount of paperwork that we have our guys provide us because they see the benefits.
They’re not having to deal with incident reports when their people are making mistakes because they’re making less of them at the end of the day they’re seeing the benefit of having an organized and safe workplace and that’s allowing them to focus on their tasks.
NWB: Does Surerus have a new safety goal and if so, how will you achieve it?
SS: I think that right now we know that we’re fortunate to have achieved 2-million man-hours without lost time incidents and we’re hoping to make it to 3 million. But, I think bigger than that is that we’re hoping to decrease the amount of incidents we have – period – and that’s through better organization.
That’s probably a bigger short-term goal because it does take a lot of time to get to 3-million hours. In the short term it’s actually reducing the number of incidents that we do have. We’re always kind of adding a bit to our program because you can’t just raise the bar so much that people don’t understand.
Right now we’re going through quite a bit more training for our people and that’s not just the foreman side, it’s also key individuals on different crews so that’s one thing that’s definitely occurring with respect to improvements in the organization.
The newest thing we’re adding is a quality management system. We’re developing that right now. We’ve been working on it for about eight months and we have another year to go on it and it ties into safety and organization and scheduling and efficiency and all of those things we think provide a better product to the owner but also will give us an advantage when we’re more productive.
NWB: You celebrated with a unique event. Can you tell people about that and why you chose to celebrate that way?
SS: When we reached 1-million man-hours, it was a bit of a surprise. Someone added up the man-hours one day and we realized how close we were to 1 million so we were pretty much on top of it. When we reached 1 million we placed some ads in the papers thanking our people and subcontractors for their hard work, and then when 2 million showed up, we thought that we would save that money from the advertising world and actually put it into something the community could participate in. We brought in a speaker from northern New York named Eric Giguere who had been buried alive.
It’s an appropriate kind of speaker for what we do because we deal with trenches and people in our industry at times feel that they should be in ditches when they shouldn’t be. This individual made it through an incident where he was buried and was pulled out dead essentially and was revived, and he spoke about how it affected his life.
We hosted an event for the other contractors in town and the energy producers and we invited as many people as we could think of and we ended up with about 80 people attending the session. This is the kind of person who speaks generally for foremen and managers at conferences and we thought this was far more appropriate for the regular guy who is actually the guy doing the work.
It was a great success for us in that we did get to go and deliver that we’ve achieved a significant milestone, but we’re doing something a little different. We’re not just patting ourselves on the back; we’re giving something back to the community.
NWB: Do you have any final comments for our readers?
SS: I always thank our people for choosing to work with Surerus because they have a lot of options in the world of construction. We feel that when someone comes to work for us and they leave us, they are able to go home safely and they are going to be able to take with them something to their next place of work that’s going to keep them aware of what’s going on and be able to potentially improve another organization’s concept of safety.
Are we really entitled to a risk free environment?
Risk used to be an accepted way of life. In fact, the more you were willing to risk, the greater the opportunity for success. This land was settled by pioneers facing tremendous risks just to surviving and they accepted this challenge in exchange for the freedom to live as they chose.
We are conditioned to viewing risk as a negative word. Somehow we feel we are entitled to an insulated, protected world where risk has been defeated by government laws, safety programs and insurance policies.
There is no progress without some kind of risk, whether monetary as in the case of investments, emotional as in regard to relationships, or physical when the job requires it.
Knowledge can be a double-edged sword when it comes to the dangers we constantly face in our everyday and work lives. It can help us manage risk in a healthy way, or it can cause unhealthy fears about our environment.
Howard Hughes is an extreme example of this – his phobia of germs drove him to live in a he could control the source of his fear. Sure he wasn’t going to catch a disease, but the fear of germs took away more freedom from his life than most diseases would. We may laugh at this story, or feel pity, but how much does fear have control over our own lives? Are we slowly moving in the same direction, losing our freedoms to the insulated bubble of a risk free environment?
Our attitude towards risk is affected by the way we view life. What makes life valuable? To some people it means living as long as possible, to others, succeeding no matter what the cost. There are also those that view life as a great adventure, where risk is actually pursued!
In countries where there is a lot of war and poverty, many adopt a fatalistic attitude where they feel helpless to protect themselves or change their environment. This leads to carelessness with their own and others lives.
While visiting Israel a short time ago, I had a conversation with a friend who shared his experience of what it was like living under the constant threat of attack. He said that when a missile attack begins, most people head quickly to the bomb shelters to wait in relative safety and only come out after the bombardment is over.
However, he also noted that there were some people who instead of running to the bomb shelters, headed up to the rooftops. Their view of life was one of ‘whatever will be, will be’. If it was their time to go, there was nothing they could do about it so they might as well enjoy the show.
We can be thankful that the prevailing attitude in North America is that we can do something about the risk factor.
Somewhere between the two extremes of fatalism and paranoia lies an area called risk management.
Risk management is the process of measuring or assessing risk, and then developing strategies to manage the risk.
As employers we set certain standards, rules and regulations in place to reduce unnecessary risks for employees, according to the governments’ and our own ideas of what unnecessary risks are. The difficulty is in finding the balance between eliminating the unnecessary, and allowing the reasonable, so that there is still freedom for progress and growth. Then there is the challenge of your employees buying in to your perspective on risk. I mentioned a few of the different views people have on the value of life and the effect this has on their attitude towards risk. You can see how someone who values success at any cost would struggle a lot more with a strict safety program than someone whose main focus is a long and healthy retirement.
Managing risk should enable companies to become more stable and profitable in the long run. It should allow people the freedom to make good choices about their behavior and actions in regards to safety, and to be held accountable when they don’t.
Responsibility needs to be rewarded and in the business world this equates to profit. Risk management is not sustainable if a company cannot grow and compete while complying with governing laws.
Neither can employees be successful if the governing laws of their employers impede their ability to take reasonable risks for the sake of progress.
A good example of this is if the speed limit was reduced to 30kms/hr. This would drastically reduce vehicle accidents and fatalities, but would be totally impractical for economic reasons.
I think we can all agree that there is no such thing as a risk free environment.
David Phibbs is the president of Alpha Safety Ltd. and Alpha Training Solutions.
For more information on this article or their services, contact 1-888-413-3477, 250-787-9315 or www.alphasafety.net.
It’s about the almighty buck. Isn’t it? No business can afford to overlook the bottom line and no employee wants to do that either, but when it’s the only thing being targeted it can create a blind that no one can afford to get lost in.
This issue of NWB is full of examples of companies who have chosen to live outside the blind – to value more than the bottom line. It’s our safety issue and we have stories that show it’s clear that the majority of people in the Peace Region have decided that safety matters.
Sadly, that is not the only truth.
As a teeny, tiny tot I hid in the bottom of my closet thinking no one knew I was there. It was fun for a while and I was giddy thinking I was getting away with something. But it soon got boring and the walls started closing in on me.
Despite ample evidence that safety is worth investing in, there are some people out there that are willing to sacrifice themselves and others on the alter of stupidity all because they apparently don’t see the value in legitimate safety tickets.
Handing out fraudulent tickets – or knowingly using them – is dangerous, and as our special feature indicates, is something that will not be tolerated.
And just like my mother knew where I was hiding, even though I didn’t know that at the time, the powers that be know how and where to look for the frauds.
In a time when safety is not only required, it’s expected, safety shortcuts made by people living in a their self-imposed closet might think they are getting away with something but at the day’s end, that’s not the case.
Perhaps if they’re forced to trade their closet for a cage they might just find what they’ve been missing – shame. It’s a small word, small enough to have been overlooked in an attempt to get something for nothing. And it could prove to be the difference between life and death.
Joei Warm, Editor
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In this issue:
• Safety: Bill of Goods or Best Practices?
• Forestry Rebound
Oil sands image linked to cooperation
CALGARY – Oil sands company leaders hope collaborative endeavours will improve their image.
The latest alliance, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), was announced at a Calgary press conference early March.
Talisman announces sale agreement
CALGARY - Talisman Energy announced an agreement with Xstrata Coal to sell certain non-producing, non-core coal properties located in northeastern British Columbia for US$500 million in cash.