Trumpeting success brings everyone on board

Inspiring stories

Communication, communication, communication and communication. These are the top four on Adrienne McKenzie’s list of priorities. And the SailSafe project manager at BC Ferries in Vancouver uses everything from workshops to a special intranet site to get the safety message across.

Working safely again: Francesca Sawyer standing by the doors that she ensured operate correctly

But it is important to Adrienne that the message is a positive one. In too many organisations, health and safety has a negative connotation. Yet safety works best if everyone is involved and everyone feels good about doing it. So at BC Ferries they make a big fuss of the things they get right.

“It’s clear,” she says, “that everything we’ve accomplished so far has been a direct result of the commitment and involvement of all employees.”

SailSafe is a sophisticated programme designed to ensure passengers and employees of the ferry company stay safe. Getting everyone thinking and talking about safety is part of that. Among other initiatives, a system of alerts allows people to easily report concerns knowing that colleagues will take speedy action.


This has resulted in some big changes over the last few years, including better systems and improved reporting. But it is just as important for Adrienne that BC Ferries people celebrate the actions of individuals.

“A deckhand noticed how slippery and awkward it was to get into the ship’s rescue boats – he suggested a change

Francesca Sawyer, for example, works as a ticket agent for foot passengers in the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. She noticed that the automatic doors leading to the waiting area closed while people were still passing through. She was worried that a child or an elderly person might be trapped.

Francesca used the alert system to ask for an immediate check of the door sensor. In two shakes, a repair man was there. He adjusted the sensor and the risk of a passenger being hurt was removed.

A deckhand on the Skeena Queen also submitted an alert when he noticed how slippery and awkward it was to get into the ship’s rescue boats. He suggested a stepping stool chained to nearby railings.

The very next day, a senior officer was out looking at the problem. He decided there wasn’t room for a  stool, and that it might be a hazard in itself. Instead, he suggested converting a section of the railings around the rescue boat into steps. Between the two of them, they have reduced the chances of a sailor slipping and being hurt around a critical piece of equipment.

Inspiring StoriesBC Ferries has 23 different ways of communicating about safety – that’s how seriously they take it

But communication works both ways. By publicising these alerts and other safety successes, BC Ferries fosters a culture where people feel good about getting involved. When they read about others being celebrated for spotting hazards and preventing accidents, it helps them understand where safety problems may lie in their own working environment.  They see what they can do about them and, importantly, they feel happy to engage.

BC Ferries has 23 different ways of communicating about safety – that’s how seriously they take it. Bulletins, regular town hall meetings, newsletters, special noticeboards, websites – you name it, they’ve thought of it.  One of these is the Communicating the Wins Bulletin – dedicated to trumpeting the company’s thousands of safety success stories.

BC Ferries carries people and goods on 25 routes along the coast of British Columbia in Canada.  It began in 1960 as a two vessel, two terminal operation and has grown into one of the largest, most sophisticated ferry transportation systems in the world, with 36 vessels and 47 ports of call.


This story is part of Lattitude’s Inspiring Safety Campaign.

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