Skip to main content

Changing St. Paul's Safety Culture

Continue reading

Just three years ago, St. Paul had the worst safety record of any CP locomotive shop. For the past two years, it’s had the best. The job of overseeing this transformation fell to Montréal native Tim Mouland, the shop’s superintendent and a 35-year veteran of the mechanical department. Tim won recognition for his efforts with a CEO Award for Excellence earlier this year. So how’d he do it? Tim came with some clear ideas of how to bring change to a shop that needed it.

“My first journey here was rules compliance,” Tim said. He had to convey that it wasn’t the St. Paul way, but the CP way that he was trying to instill.

“You don’t take on too much too soon,” Tim said. “If you want my secret sauce, I picked a rule. The first rule I wanted to address at St. Paul was radio protocol, because if you can’t speak on the radio in a professional and rules-compliant manner, everything else is going to be a wash.” Tim worked with the technical training department to create and distribute job aids outlining rules and procedures for talking on the radio. When he heard poor radio procedure, he took employees aside and coached them.

“I worked that to a point of compliance. Then, I moved onto the next thing,” Tim said. It turns out the next thing was securing equipment around the shop. “By spot-audit, I would find a non-compliant safety issue, so I decided I would round up everybody who was responsible for the infraction and re-educate them and say, ok, this is how the rule reads; do you understand? Good, ok. Now sign that you all understand the rule, so everybody would sign. Then, my team and I would go back and validate.”

Most employees understood the clear expectations he was laying out and chose to participate in the new culture. Some did not.

Building the right team of employees and fostering a dedication to the rulebook were both key elements to turning St. Paul around. The next step was getting employees to notice unsafe conditions on the shop floor or unsafe actions by their co-workers, and to respectfully coach one another. That step, he said, involved humility, and a willingness to set an example.

“I thought when I came down here, the first order of business is, I’m supposed to know everything about everything, because I’m the superintendent. I’m hard on myself because I want to be the go-to guy,” Tim said. Over time, he discovered, “It’s perfectly acceptable to say: I don’t know; I’ll find out.” Rules compliance is not possible if employees don’t understand the rules.

That’s the example Tim sets for his shop workers. Nobody has all the answers, but everybody has the right to ask. In other words, accountability at the St. Paul shop isn’t just a top-down thing, its also bottom up.

Beside the wheel-truing machine, 24-year CP machinist Tom Abraham said he considers safety a key part of his charge. “If there’s a mess, you clean it up,” he said. “If you see something that’s going to affect where you’re working, you either move it or clean it.”

New-hire machinists also feel empowered to speak up. “If you see somebody doing something that you don’t think is right and not safe, you say something to them.”

Tim’s safety philosophy is consistent with the CP Home Safe initiative, which rolled out in 2017. Tim sees CP Home Safe as a tool to talk about safety as part of the daily routine.

“Everything we do on the shop floor, we can always button it up with a discussion about CP Home Safe,” he said. “It’s not a complex thing. I think if you asked anybody on the shop floor, they’d tell you: I don’t want to get injured, I don’t want anything I do to injure one of my co-workers, if I see something I’m going to say something, and if somebody tells me I’m doing something wrong, I’m going to be receptive to that feedback.” That, in essence, sums up the expectations laid out in the CP Home Safe initiative.

“My older guys that are working with the younger guys are empowered. The first thing they bring up is how to do a task safely,” Tim said. “It’s now part of the dialogue and culture at St. Paul.”

Enjoyed the read? Here are some more: