May 6, 2019
Jacki HartBusiness owners are responsible for ensuring they have a culture of safety and wellness. The challenge for them, is what exactly does that look like? What should we all do? What will our conversations sound like when we’re there?

Throughout our careers, a shift has occurred from a culture of, “get it done no matter what,” to a culture of, “get it done safely and with work-life balance.” This shift is not only extreme, it’s complete and here to stay.

Long gone are the days of working with no Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), no pylons, no safety sign-offs. Every single foreperson, supervisor, manager and company owner is now required to ensure the entire staff are following a clearly-defined safety protocol at every turn, every day.

Recently, the power went out in my home town for a couple of hours one morning. I went to my local pharmacy to pick up a prescription after the power was restored, only to find the doors locked with a sign that read: “Due to our health and safety programme, which is designed to protect the safety of our team, we are closed while we await the power to come back on and fully re-start our systems and computers.” I found a similar message when I went to the local Restore to drop off a donation. It reminded me that health and safety protocols are clearly defined across every industry, and require strict protocols to be followed.

The challenge for every company management team is to decide what the safety policies need to be, and how to communicate, train and engage the team to respect and follow them every day.

At a Landscape Ontario Peer to Peer Network session held last February, we had an open discussion and brainstorming session on mental health in the workplace. We worked together to create lists of what deeper awareness we learned about mental health in our companies over the past year or two. We also created a list of ‘intentions’ on what we would do to design our own solutions on various issues of mental health. We focused on bringing it more to the forefront in the minds of our teammates who are tasked with ensuring the team is healthy in every way possible.

Prior to last winter, I hadn’t connected the dots between workplace processes and the mental health of the team. Now I realize there is a true benefit in having candid, meaningful conversations among staff, and with management, to address the challenges many face throughout the year (whether at work or not). I’m grateful to many of LO’s Peer to Peer Network members who openly shared experiences of their staff navigating mental health challenges — ranging from the impact of a lingering, lost time workplace injury, to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), to suicide. It was a great discussion — one which I encourage you all to consider having in your workplace this season.

There is a responsibility on owners to ensure that people who need support have access to it. Opening up conversations about mental health is creating a more tightly knit team in each of the companies I see making an effort. And if Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) is offering training on this to employers, then I think it’s important for everyone to stand up and pay attention.

As you ponder what this means to your own company, ask yourself if there’s room in the employee engagement department for you to start a conversation with your team about wellness. Can you take a stand and make the effort to create space for troubled staff to share and ask for support? Is there a way to add flexibility to your work structure to reduce stress and accommodate things like child care, transportation or home life challenges? Are there people on your team who would engage more deeply with your company brand if it included a sincere focus on wellness for everyone?

I know of companies who hold monthly events that allow their team to hang out together outside of work. Some do yoga in the park, hold barbeques or fun days, work on community projects, volunteer projects, and more. What I have observed in these companies, is a true ethic to support and engage staff in dialogue and collaboration, and to support the overall wellness of the team.

Creating the culture of safety isn’t a very long step away from our wellness discussions. At the LO Peer to Peer session last winter, Carla Bailey, HR manager at TLC Landscaping in London, Ont., joined me in leading a discussion on establishing and maintaining a continually improving culture of safety. We emphasized the point that as long as management firmly believes everyone has the right to go home uninjured — and they walk their talk, then the rest usually falls into place. Things go wrong when managers put priority on tight schedules, filling work orders and often rescheduling safety meetings.

In order to create a truly engaged culture of safety and wellness, scheduled safety meetings should never be delayed. If you put off training and conversations about the importance of safety over and over again, it sends a wrong message to your team — it’s THEIR safety that’s at risk. The onus is on the leadership team to inform, train, and engage everyone in safety and proactive, consistent smart practices, designed to keep staff, pedestrians and client families safe.

Take a moment, especially now at this difficult and rushed time of year, to make sure you’re on target with your safety training plan, and don’t let your foot off the gas. Not now. Not ever. The message to your team that their safety and wellness is important and non-negotiable is not only appreciated, but necessary.

Dig in, show you care, ask for ideas, and engage your team in a culture of safety and wellness.
Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager