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Safety A Go-Go

HALIFAX, N.S. - After having cracked the whip to become ISO 9001-certified this February, the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association (NSTSA) has already done nearly 100 safety audits for member truck...

HALIFAX, N.S. –After having cracked the whip to become ISO 9001-certified this February, the Nova Scotia Trucking Safety Association (NSTSA) has already done nearly 100 safety audits for member trucking companies.

“The ISO certification was a huge feat for us to undertake,” says NSTSA executive director Linda Corkum. Another feat is that as costs rise like a Fundy tide, the new capability is helping to preserve the association’s good financial health. This is a good thing, as 10- year-old NSTSA is funded entirely from a 3% levy on the workers’ compensation premiums members pay to the WCB.

Trucking companies bidding on contracts or government projects must have the Certificate of Recognition (COR) they earn after a successful audit. Before NSTSA became ISO-certified, its member companies had to purchase safety audits from one of five Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB)-approved companies. They still can, but NSTSA safety audits cost less and the fees it collects stay in-house for other association purposes.

Other benefits flow from the new capability to the association and its members; ie., the CORs that NSTSA issues, which sport its logo and name, have helped raise its profile. “Some of our members did not even know they were members,” Corkum says.

Better awareness of what NSTSA offers is good for members, since it is uniquely concerned with matters Nova Scotian.

“I want to know how to work in Nova Scotia to better serve my company. It is a better use of my time,” says Jack Thompson, who is responsible for safety and compliance with Cambridge-based David Brown Transport.

David Brown does not need the COR for the work it does, but Thompson still orders one every year.

“The audit gives us a second set of eyes,” Thompson says. He also observes that Corkum’s insider knowledge of the workings of the WCB lends a special quality to the NSTSA audits.

Corkum believes that doing the audits helps NSTSA ensure consistency and quality across the industry; ie., NSTSA always does site visits.

“We learn more about member work sites and meet the owners and employees. We also send surveys out to our members. We had no idea of the level of satisfaction or quality when we were subcontracting the safety audits. (We have received 100% satisfaction).We can also provide and better manage services based on what our members want.”

The audits also feed NSTSA data, from which it can identify trends, good and bad, and alert or praise members.

“The first issue we noticed was that many employees’ first aid training had lapsed. This is a basic requirement for working on certain contracts. Companies have been tossed off job sites because they lacked the training or proper protective equipment,” Corkum says.

The audits have also flagged weaknesses in some areas of members’ safety management processes, such as hazardous assessment.

“Under Occupational Health and Safety regulations, companies have to identify hazards specific to their jobs and put in place processes, programs and training to eliminate them. We can provide tools and tips, which means a lot to them,” Corkum says.

On the upside, she notes, “A number of companies this year had zero defects at the safety audits. If we see a trend moving in the right direction we now have the database to promote what works, including best practices, and provide that information to companies who may require some help in particular areas.”

Nova Scotia trucking companies doubtlessly rejoiced when they learned this September that their 2010 WCB premiums will drop from the 2009 baseline rate of $5.05/$100 of payroll to $4.69, in the Standard Industrial Classifications 4561 (general freight) and 4569 (other truck transport). “They reflect a huge decrease in the number of workplace injuries and the duration (of recovery times),” Corkum says. “In fact, our bulk liquids division and our dry bulk division are paying $2.69.”

Putting this in perspective, the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada’s 2009 rates ranged from $3.36 in Saskatchewan to $7.15 in Quebec in the 4561 classification.

Rates are custom-set for each carrier.

“Our rates reflect what we do as a company,” Thompson explains. “The safety audits give you a different perspective -a double check on what you are supposed to be doing.”

The bottom line message for those who suspect their usefulness, then, is that safety audits keep incidents and WCB rates down.

NSTSA will be issuing its 2010 calendar of safety sessions in its January 2010 newsletter and on its Web site. One new in-house offering is a workplace incident/accident investigation session, scheduled for Jan. 21. Members will appreciate that NSTSA has developed content that better suits transportation than more generic sessions on the market. Corkum adds “We use scenarios and terminology specific to the industry so our participants can better …determine root causes.”

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