Instilling a safety culture in the workplace

CALGARY (RURAL ROOTS CANADA) — Safety is a growing topic on farms, businesses, and organizations across the country.

Many are developing plans and strategies to help keep their workplaces safe whether they are in an office, on-farm setting or both.

During the summer many Ag businesses and farms hire students to increase productivity and get the many tasks and projects done, while the weather is warm.

As an employer, it falls on the operation, business or organization to get the seasonal workers up to speed on safety procedures as soon as possible.

BASF Canada sees on average 150 summer interns every year, a lot of which are university age, some have farm backgrounds and others come from the city.

Wayne Barton, Manager of Research and Commercial Development, says it’s important to start them off on the right foot the second they start working.

“These are young people with not a lot of experience in the workforce, and because of that they are more vulnerable because of their age and their experience have at this point,” Barton said.

Barton says it goes beyond just training, it’s about culture.

“They engage with our full-time staff and our professionals, whether they are our safety professionals or sales professionals or research managers, they engage with our full-time staff about why it is so important.”

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Going beyond training 

According to Barton, developing a culture goes beyond just teaching all of the employees and students about driving heavy equipment and working with chemicals. It’s about making it a regular conversation in the workplace, connecting interns with full-time staff and challenging staff to treat it as leadership training.

“There is a big difference between taking training and talking about why the training is so important, why their safety is important, why them coming on-board and looking out for each other and the other full-time staff that is here is just the way we work.”

He adds keeping the topic in front of everyone is paramount and easily attained if its always top of mind.

“Talk about it, share it, celebrate it, share best practices, almost practice the culture that we are trying to build here and create a lot of awareness at the same time.

Leadership Training

As mentioned, Barton encourages staff to lead by example, lead the training, engage and see it as an opportunity to practice leadership.

“When we talk to our leaders, particularly our young leaders, the people who are leading teams within BASF or supervising these summer staff, we try to make the connection between safety culture and leadership.”

He says being vulnerable and sharing stories on why safety is important to them, helps new employees understand the gravity of it.

Barton says safety should be the first thing students and new employees see and hear the second they start on the job.

As he pointed out, leaders are challenged to talk about their personal experience with safety to make it relatable to everyone. Increasing the amount of engagement encourages a safety culture and helps keep the topic top of mind as everyone carries out their daily tasks.