To Jean-Paul Deveau, president and CEO of Acadian Seaplants, there’s nothing more important than getting his employees home safely after a day’s work. “Without those 400 employees, there is no company,” says Deveau.
Over his 30 years in the family business, two incidents stand out as dramatic reminders of the importance of safety. In both cases, seaweed harvesters went missing at sea. And, while they were eventually found safely, Deveau spent several anxious hours waiting for news. “It certainly makes it very personal when you receive a call that there is a fisherman missing and they’re out searching for them.”
Despite the happy endings, those close calls underscored his firm belief that safety matters above all. “Safety needs to be placed in the forefront of all discussions and everyone in the company needs to be on board,” he says. “Safety is not a box you tick; it’s a way of life.”
Deveau knows safety leadership requires taking responsibility for fostering a strong safety culture and putting in place effective initiatives to support it. Inspiring leaders do the right thing — even when it isn‘t easy. They take tangible steps to make their workplaces safer by raising awareness, ensuring employees are properly trained and seeing that appropriate procedures are put in place and consistently followed.
Under Deveau’s watch, Acadian Seaplants now has a full-time safety officer, runs regular injury prevention and safety awareness programs and provides ongoing training for workers. And in 2012, the company received a Mainstay Award for its efforts.
Everyone can take the lead on safety
One thing Deveau has learned over the years is being a leader in workplace safety isn’t about job description; it’s about commitment.
While employers need to take the lead, any worker in any role in any industry can and should step up on safety. That’s the underlying message in A Call to Lead, a safety video produced by WCB Nova Scotia and the Department of Labour and Advanced Education. “I will do all that I can, so you can do all that you can to make sure no one gets hurt,” is its call to action, inviting all of us to do our part to make our workplaces safer because “nothing matters more.”
There are signs Nova Scotians are heeding the call. Over the past few years, there has been a steady improvement in the safety culture in Nova Scotia workplaces and a significant decrease in the number of workplace injuries. Today, there are 1.76 time-loss injuries per 100 covered workers, down from 2.57 in 2007. According to WCB Nova Scotia, more employers are also putting basic safety practices in place. In a 2017 survey, 72 per cent of workplaces reported having a health and safety program. But there’s still work to do.
Safety leaders like Jean-Paul Deveau make safety matter by making it a priority. But they can’t do it alone. Success requires each one of us to make the choice to take safety seriously by following proper safety practices, reporting workplace hazards and responding appropriately to incidents.
“Safety is everybody’s job, including me and every one of the 400 people who work in this company,” says Deveau. “We’re all in this together.”
And when everyone works together, everyone gets to go home safe.
To find out how you can take the lead on safety, visit worksafeforlife.ca.