What Does A Zamboni Driver Know About Workplace Safety?

If you went up to your average employee and asked them what they thought their number one job was, what do you think they would say?
How many of them would tell you that they thought their main job was SAFETY? Let me put the reason for this question into perspective for you.

Queen of the North

A number of years ago, there was a terrible accident involving the Queen of the North- a passenger vessel within the British Columbia Ferry Services fleet. It struck a rock and sank. Although the evacuation of the vessel was handled incredibly well (particularly considering that the incident occurred in the middle of the night), they suffered the tragic loss of two passengers.

Sonar Leadership March 01, 2017

The report that was produced following the inquiry into the accident was authored by George Morfitt.
The ‘Morfitt Report’ contained a host of recommendations designed to produce a heightened state of safety within BC Ferries that would prevent a similar incident from ever happening again. But the report was so much more than a series of recommendations.
It was also industry-changing in many ways (much in the same way that the Braidwood Inquiry, and Justice Braidwood’s subsequent Report, was for the world of policing in British Columbia).
One of the focuses within The ‘Morfitt Report’ was to create a directional shift within BC Ferries and its organizational Safety Management System (SMS).
One aspect of this was to engage every employee, and reinforce the viewpoint that their most important role while at work was that of SAFETY- their own safety, as well as the safety of everyone else on board. The overall initiative branded Sail Safe, implemented a series of procedural changes and new policies, as well as mandatory training. Sail Safe was promoted everywhere and by everyone in the organization- from the casual summer-hire to Mike Corrigan in the CEO office.

BFC Ferry

You couldn’t step foot inside a BFC Ferry environment, and not be struck by the fact that SAFETY was foremost in everything they did as well as every decision that they made. This bolsters the idea that cultural change does not simply occur by switching on a neon light displaying the words “SAFETY LIVES HERE”, standing back to admire the glow, and then slapping people on the back while proudly proclaiming, “There we are, we are now a safe workplace!” No, it is a lot more inclusive than that. But once achieved, you have the benefit of employees not only behaving in a safe manner each and every time they come to work, but of them also becoming champions and advocates of safe behaviour for everyone else.

They will hold each other accountable for their behaviour, and remind each other if they notice any drifting from that standard- not in a chastising or critical style, but in a coaching and supportive way. Why is this important and what does it have to do with the Zamboni Driver from the title?
Well, let me explain:

And the Zamboni Driver?

I was recently engaged by a municipal client to deliver a series of Workplace Violence Prevention workshops throughout part of the province of British Columbia. During our workshops, I make it a habit of asking random participants to define the most important part of their job.  I am interested in whether they consider safety a critical component.
I can tell you from experience, having facilitated hundreds of workshops, that not very many people do.
What follows is an opportunity for me to educate. I try to create an atmosphere of sharing information through stories, to reinforce why safety needs to be at the top of everyone’s To-Do list at work. Although not everyone rushes out of our workshops to sign up for the Occupational Health and Safety Committee at their workplace, I hope that they leave suitably enlightened and a lot more aware and conscious of their surroundings and behaviour.

Finally, the Zamboni Driver

Within the first few minutes at one of these workshops in BC, I invited each participant to share how long they had worked for their municipality, what their specific job was, and what they saw as their primary function. About half way through the students, it was time for this particular gentleman to speak. He said that he had been working for the municipality for four years as the Zamboni Driver at the Municipal Arena (which he unpretentiously described as the “Third sexiest job in Canada!”).

He concluded by proudly stating that he saw his number one job as Safety.

As his colleagues looked at him like they suddenly had no idea who this person was, he went on to explain that by ensuring his safety each and every day that he came to work, that attitude and lens through which he viewed his job had a ripple effect on those with whom he worked and interacted.
He gave a few examples of some suggestions that he had made (some small, but some significant ones as well), and which of those had resulted in improvements throughout the arena.As he spoke, three other employees enthusiastically joined in the conversation, sharing that they now recognized it had been indeed the Zamboni Driver who had encouraged them to be safer at work- not by criticizing them or calling them out within the workplace, but by gently coaching and mentoring.

Our Zamboni Driver was visibly moved at being publicly acknowledged for his positive contribution at work- it had not been his motivation, but had obviously been the result. When asked where he had learned that his number one role is safety, he paused, smiled and said, “Another Zamboni Driver of course!” Proving once again that if you want to effect positive change, start with yourself!