By CHRISTIE PELLETIER and JASON ALLAN | Guest columnists
On April 14, the city of Edmonton’s Fleet Services Branch received the 2015 North American Fleet Association Flexy Award for Excellence in Public Fleet Safety.
The NAFA Flexy Awards recognize organizations that have impacted fleet management in both the corporate and public fleet sectors across North America. Nominations are reviewed by a panel consisting of fleet managers, fleet management professionals and other members of the fleet industry.
We, Christie Pelletier, occupational health and safety consultant, and Jason Allan, fleet maintenance supervisor, were honored to represent the city of Edmonton’s Fleet Services Safety & Environment Committee to accept the award for Excellence in Public Fleet Safety for the second time.
Fleet Services Branch Manager Steve Rapanos attributes the department’s success to the work of the safety and environment committee, and to every Fleet Services employee for making safety their highest priority. We work in a highrisk environment, he acknowledged, so safety is a team effort.
Edmonton’s Fleet Services is one of the most diverse and integrated municipal fleet operations in Canada. It serves as the city’s experts in vehicle and equipment procurement, maintenance, engineering, fabrication and fleet safety. Fleet Services ensures over 5,000 city vehicles, transit buses and essential city operations equipment are well maintained, safe and reliable for use on a daily basis. Creating an environment where managers and employees keep safety top of mind is integral to providing a safe fleet and workplace for maintenance staff.
In 2013 the branch prepared for a safety audit, which was a perfect opportunity to improve how workers engaged in safe activities and how managers support the safety management system. Fleet Services knew the vision and priorities were established but realized it would take intentional effort to ensure their hard work and commitment to safety would translate into results. It was observed that although documentation and processes were in place, lines of communication required improvement. Occasionally, information between the shop and leadership staff wasn’t clear, and front-line staff and leaders didn’t feel as confident in their ability to act on safety concerns on their own. This realization shifted perspective. Curiosity around how to ensure staff safety concerns and ideas for change became the focus of the safety program.
A task team led by Jason set out to determine what was working and what required change. The team focused on the Safety & Environmental Committee structure, which ensures all staff are represented and have a means of raising concerns and following up on the status of the concerns; and that complex safety issues were escalated in a timely manner to the right level of the organization for review and action. It was really important to ensure all levels of employees had representation on the committee and that they had a place to go whenever they had questions or wanted to bring up concerns.
This structure review has done more than prepare the branch for a safety audit as the effort resulted in a change that was immeasurable. Being involved with our safety and environment committee since 2008, we’ve been able to see it evolve and become something more than a checklist or another meeting. It’s grown by leaps and bounds through support from management, from engagement with staff at every level, and through better documentation. It’s extremely rewarding to be recognized, and more importantly, we are making our workplace safer every day.
After this change was made, a shift in safety culture began to occur. The impact became apparent when two staff involved in a serious near miss reported the incident and spoke passionately about the importance of sharing the lessons they learned. Despite the discomfort and apprehension that often comes with self reporting of incidents at the workplace, they overcame their fears and shared their story with more than 600 employees. Both workers also admitted personal responsibility by taking ownership for the part they played in what happened. It is this shift in culture that landed the branch the formal acknowledgement by NAFA with a 2015 Flexy Award.
Our success wouldn’t have been possible without the support of upper management who allowed us the opportunity for change and continuous improvement.
It’s important to recognize that people are what make your safety program come alive, and when they start to see that success, they own it. They start doing things they haven’t been asked to do.
Rapanos is proud of the work the committee has accomplished. He said we set the framework in place for our safety program, but that it’s our people with their boots on the ground who make it count: We are so grateful of the work they do. He also feels that the work of the committee really speaks to the culture we’ve created around the safety committee, that the frontline workers feel comfortable, welcome and that their voice will be heard.