President, Kohltech International Windows and Entrance Systems
Safety is a personal thing for Kevin Pelley, President of Kohltech International Windows and Entrance Systems. In addition to being involved in a few workplace injuries when he was young, just two years ago, his son lost a friend in a construction site tragedy. "When my son told me about his friend’s death, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It really drove home the importance of safety."
Kohltech had already been working hard on building a culture of safety. In 2005, with the company's WCB rates and injuries steadily climbing, Pelley decided something had to be done.
"I realized that we needed to build a culture of safety. We needed to go beyond safety procedures, begin talking about it every day, and really start to live it."
Pelley, accompanied by a few keen managers, partnered with WCB Nova Scotia and the Department of Labour and Advanced Education to create a safer workplace. They brought in a safety consultant, created a game plan, and began to work toward small successes. "In the beginning, we were celebrating five days without lost time, and then 25 days. Now we’re at over 500 days."
But, Pelley cautions, this did not happen overnight. "It sounds like a cliché, but growing safer has been very much a journey and not a destination. It has literally taken years. This was not a quick fix."
The company spent a lot of money and time and effort, and it took a few years for the new approach to really catch on. Today, Kohltech, with over 400 employees and two plants in Nova Scotia and Alberta, is a leader in safety.
"We've seen a tremendous return on our investment through vastly improved employee morale, lower WCB rates, and a healthier bottom line," says Pelley, who believes that creating safe work cultures boosts our economy by bringing new business to challenged regions like Nova Scotia.
"It wasn't always easy, but our perseverance paid off. It's a good example of that old adage: 'If you sing a song long enough, other people will sing along."