Safety is more than a policy, it’s our top priority

By Murray Brabender

Out of all issues that keep leadership up at night, physical and psychological safety of employees must be near the top. According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 70% of workers are concerned about their psychological health and safety of their workplace. That has economic consequences: mental health issues cost the Canadian economy $50 billion a year.

On the physical safety side, an Ipsos Reid poll found that 20% of Canadian businesses do not offer safety and orientation programs to new workers, which is legally required.

With numbers like these companies must embed safety into their business and leadership mandates. To us at Metro Supply Chain, safety is not just a box to check off, but a fundamental value that underpins our entire operation. Keeping our team members and customers safe is always top of mind and always has been since Metro Supply Chain opened its doors almost 50 years ago.

A safer workplace for a happier and more productive team

We know a workplace with a strong safety track record fosters confidence and peace of mind among our team members. When team members are not worrying about accidents or injury, they can concentrate more fully on their jobs, resulting in a happier workforce with increased productivity and efficiency. Moreover, a safe workplace promotes employee satisfaction and retention. Team members are more likely to remain with the company longer and to recommend the business to other prospective employees, which can lead to cost savings when hiring. 

A workplace built to avoid accidents also minimizes costly disruptions, downtime and worker absences due to injury or sickness. Equipment – from forklifts to dock doors – that’s operated in a safe manner will enjoy a much longer lifespan and require less maintenance. A safer workplace with fewer accidents and fewer claims also translates into smooth operations and minimize financial losses.

Safety from toe to head

At Metro Supply Chain, our concept of safety extends beyond the physical. We take the psychological safety of our people just as seriously. We believe that workers who feel supported, encouraged and rewarded are more productive and find their work more enjoyable. Studies have also shown that innovation is boosted when people feel safe to think about new ways of doing things and to express their thoughts.

To promote safety as a holistic concept, we have implemented comprehensive culture training programs for our team members such as Our Way, which emphasizes safety as an integral part of our organizational culture. Different from regular health and safety training, the Our Way training isn’t limited to physical training, but rather takes a more holistic approach.

To continue the conversation of safety beyond training, we also publish regular health and wellness newsletters that highlight topics on both physical safety (e.g., the proper way to lift heavy loads) and mental health. We have wellness rooms in some of our Canadian offices for employees to take mental breaks during the day, acknowledging the importance of mental health in the overall safety and well-being of our team members.

Safety and equity: a gender-inclusive approach

When we partnered with the Canadian Women’s Foundation, we learned that universally, women and people who have been historically marginalized often prioritize safety and mental health as critical issues they face. This serves as another reminder that safety is not a siloed issue, therefore, our approach to safety needs aligns with our efforts toward a gender-equitable workplace.

Our employee assistance programs offer confidential counseling and support to employees and their families for everyday stresses and challenges. We have also adopted a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, discrimination and harassment, enhancing the safety of our work environment.

Investing in safety for growth and innovation

As a forward-thinking organization, we understand that investing in safety is also investing in growth and innovation. For many years, Metro Supply Chain has invested heavily in technology and automation to help serve its clients better. We take the same approach to safety and rely on technology and automation to reduce occupational risk wherever possible. Every team member is required to complete our extensive training regimen, which includes comprehensive equipment training and a biannual Health and Safety refresher. Ongoing updates are especially important in an industry like ours, where continuous innovation translates into rapid change, some of which can have an impact on best safety practices.

Safety first: a top priority in everything we do

The commitment to safe and clean work environments is company-wide and an integral part of our culture at each of our sites across North America and Europe. Safety Committees are empowered to identify outstanding issues. And, while leadership meets regularly to set standards, each individual is encouraged to speak up whenever safety-related concerns arise. 

We are proud of our team members for always upholding the highest safety standards in our operational facilities and offices. To recognize and reinforce a culture of safety, we have instituted the annual Gold Awards, including a Health and Safety Award that honours team members who demonstrate exceptional safety practices in line with our company culture. These awards are presented to team members from the executive team, reminding us that a culture of safety is important every level.

The goal for us is to ensure that safety is not just a policy to comply with but an attitude and a frame of mind that we strive to instill in every team member at Metro Supply Chain. We want safety to be a top priority in everything we do.