Interview: 2016 Canadian Safety Leader of the Year
I was so happy to hear that Adrian Khan, Environmental Health and Safety Manager at Mother Parkers Tea and Coffee, was awarded Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) Safety Leader of the Year for 2016. Adrian was presented the award at the Canada’s Safest Employers awards gala on October 24th. The COS Safety Leader of the Year award is given to exceptional leaders who are making a difference in the lives of workers.
Mother Parkers has been a Humantech client for the past five years. We worked with Adrian when he was at Cadbury, and again when he transitioned to Mother Parkers. We have watched him grow and improve the safety culture in visible ways. I remember the first time I walked into his office soon after he started working at Mother Parkers. He had a huge white board full of initiatives he wanted to introduce and compliance issues he wanted to address. Now, his whiteboard is still full, but it’s not all written in red marker anymore.
Although ergonomics is just one part of Adrian’s responsibilities, it is representative of how he is trying to help improve the lives of the employees at Mother Parkers. I sat down with him to ask a few questions about his ergonomics process.
What makes a great safety leader?
A great safety leader is someone who is committed, actively involved, and always participating, not someone just sitting behind a desk. I also think that a great safety leader has the employees’ best interests in mind and makes them part of the solution. This is the best way to implement a safety system that is accepted positively by all. Every decision you make should have safety in mind.
Why is ergonomics important to a good safety culture?
Ergonomics programs focus on improving the workplace for employees and that is the foundation of a good safety culture. Ergonomics activities directly impact employees and they can see visible results when improvements are made.
What ergonomics initiatives have you implemented at Mother Parkers?
On the office side, we have used a combination of face-to-face assessments, as well as online software (Humantech’s Ergopoint) to provide employees with training, assessments, and action items.
For the manufacturing area, we developed an ergonomics committee (similar to a Joint Health and Safety Committee) to find and fix MSD risk factors that are present at the plants. We jump-started our program by having ergonomics blitz events so that the team could “Find It” (hazards), “Fix It” (countermeasures), and “Check It” (happy operators). From there, the team would have a number of short-term solutions that could be implemented immediately, and also a list of longer-term improvements that could be planned for. The team continued to work the process, have monthly meetings, and implement change. This creates a go-to group of operators on the floor that their peers feel comfortable with and can go to if they want to report an issue.
What exactly is the ergonomics committee? Why did you put this in place? Why is it important?
We wanted to put together a cross-functional team that would create collaboration between safety, managers, supervisors, maintenance and, most importantly, operators. We wanted to empower the operators to recognize hazards in their work area, voice those concerns, and to be a part of the solutions.
Traditionally, ergonomics programs are started to prevent injuries and reduce costs. But an initiative focused solely on injury reduction will have limited influence and ownership outside of the safety department. We wanted to put the ownership of the process with the operators, the people who do the jobs every day.
Ergonomics is not just safety or quality or productivity or engagement; it’s all of that. It’s truly about making the work environment better, and creating a culture of continuous improvement and change.