January 15, 2013
By Mike Watson
Co-owner, Kelly’s Tree Care

Everyone has heard all the inspirational lines, “Safety is a state of mind,” “Safety first,” and “Safety is our number one priority.” But, how many company owners and crew members actually back up those fluffy feel-good words?

I wrote this article to outline some tangible benefits of being in a safety group. Even more important are the collateral benefits of safety groups. You can use a safety group to relax WSIB and MOL concerns about your company, assist your marketing and sales, and be instrumental in employee recruitment and retention.

My wife Trish and I bought Kelly`s Tree Care in Scarborough three years ago. Our company became involved in a Safety Group Program, sponsored by Landscape Ontario and provided by WSIB. We were brand new as company owners, but with many years of experience in the industry and very safety oriented. We entered the safety program with a goal to protect ourselves personally and financially. If you are not constantly aware of current or new legislation, it is hard to comply. The safety group keeps you current.

Over the course of three years, the program has guided us through the formal creation of important documents like our violence and harassment in the workplace policy and procedure, and our return to work program for WSIB claims. The program and its mentors provides a platform to develop your own customized safety program. You learn how to find information and are provided tools to structure the policies and procedures to be clearly understood by both your staff and outside government authorities. You also learn to maintain your program.

The real benefits for us have been the collateral advantages. We now have 15 WSIB-sponsored safety policies in place, as well as 25 of our own structured policies. When we come into contact with either WSIB or MOL representatives, I mention this right away. Suddenly they have no interest in looking for any deficiencies and only want to offer assistance if we need any help or training. This in itself is enough reason to join a safety program.

Our Landscape Ontario Safety Group provided a special WSPS representative, providing extra support for us in the creation of this year’s safety program. We developed a good relationship with our training consultant.

Another benefit we realized was when we quoted on large commercial jobs that require copies of our safety policies and procedures to submit a bid. Not only is safety not an issue for us, but we have actually been awarded contracts as a result of the clear and defined information available to the client. The safety program has become a marketing and sales tool.

A big benefit that I never saw coming is in the recruitment and retention of employees. I am proud to say that all of our employees have the same frame of mind; safety actually is a state of mind and not just fluff. We tripped across this realization in the interview process of an employee. Imagine that uncomfortable point where you say, “We are a very safety conscious company.” The prospective employee doesn’t know you, so why would he believe you? When you give them a copy of your calendar of training for the entire year, suddenly you and your company are legitimate and knowingly care about the safety of their employees.

Ask yourself about the amount of time and money you spend each year reacting to safety concerns, instead of being proactive. How can you use this safety program as a tool in your marketing programs? How can this safety program help with recruitment of new employees, or in keeping your employees from calling me for a job?

Most importantly, how many of you are out there thinking how lucky you have been so far not to have been investigated, or to have not had a serious injury or accident? I sleep soundly at night knowing we are doing all we can to protect ourselves and our workers.

For more information on safety groups Landscape Ontario at kmclean@landscapeontario.com.