When safety comes first
Supervisor helps establish workplace rules

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Liard ( May 26/00) - It's not that Al Harris advocates counter-productivity, but he says that if he walks into a room where everybody is sitting around, he can rest easy.

"If nobody's moving, nobody gets hurt," he said, laughing.

Harris has been the safety supervisor for Beaver Enterprises for the past 11 months. As the community's fire chief, he started out as a consultant, working to devise the company's safety policy. Eventually, he and a Chevron safety management employee completed the Safety and Loss Control Manual.

The manual has sections dealing with hazard identification and control, safety meetings, incident reporting, investigations, emergency response and protective equipment.

Now that the policy is out of the way, Harris' top priority is to create awareness of its guidelines.

His day starts at 7 a.m. and usually ends by 6 p.m., but he remains on call throughout the night. He visits work sites and ensures employees are wearing the proper protective equipment -- hard hats, ear protection, visors, first-aid kits, small fire extinguishers -- and employing safe work practices.

"At this stage, they are accepting it pretty good," he said of Beaver's workers. "I love my job. I love the direction its focused towards ... we try to promote safe attitudes at work that can be taken home. It keeps us safer at work, but also community-wise, it's a nice way to have it."

He's also determined to ensure that the safety policy is adhered to from the top down. Supervisors and foremen are reminded that they should be setting the example, he said. Management are no exception either, he said.

"I've got to be very careful," said a smiling Harris, who has earned the nicknames "Safety Al" and "Danger Al."

His days are also consumed with employee orientations, writing reports for the Workers' Compensation Board, licensing and insuring the company's 100 vehicles, inspecting buildings, ordering safety supplies and equipment.

"If we have any type of fuel spills or hazardous material spills that also falls in my lap to report it and to clean up," he said. "The oil and gas industry has become so tightly regulated safety-wise now. They don't let you play any games."

The safety policy sets out that a first-time offender receives a verbal warning, a second offence warrants a written warning, a third infraction leads to a short suspension (seven days or less) a fourth offence results in a long-term suspension (eight days or more) and a fifth transgression means losing the job.

Every Beaver employee is required to pass a standard first aid course as a minimum requirement. Most safety certificates expire after two years, so training is always an ongoing process, he said.

In the time that he's been with Beaver, there has not been one life-threatening incident, he added.