Safer workplaces and reduced costs with Health and Safety Excellence program

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Foraco manager details benefits from participating in provincial program

WSN Health and Safety Excellence Brochure 2023

  Man standing in front of mining equipment
Mike Patenaude, Health, Safety, and Environment Manager at Foraco International, says the Ontario Health and Safety Excellence program helped them improve workplace safety, reduce costs, and earn a WSIB rebate. 

When it comes to health and safety, many Ontario businesses are uncertain of where to start. That’s where the Health and Safety Excellence program comes in.

The provincial Health and Safety Excellence program helps businesses develop their own workplace health and safety programs, network, and learn—all with the potential for earning a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) premium rebate.

As an approved program provider, Workplace Safety North (WSN) supplies firms with guidance on the registration process, expert advice on action plans and implementation, access to sample documents, as well as continuous support throughout the program.

The 12-month program has two streams, one for larger businesses with 100 plus employees and one for smaller businesses with 1 to 99 employees. New this year, the program is offering $1,000 financial incentives to help small businesses cover the cost of program registration. Firms need to register by February 17, 2023, in order to qualify for the 2023 program.

Mike Patenaude, Health, Safety and Environment Manager with Foraco International in North Bay, talked with WSN about their experience with the program and how they have specifically benefitted with a safer workplace, lower injury severity rate, reduced costs, and a rebate on their WSIB premiums.

Can you tell us a bit about your organization?

Foraco Canada, is a subsidiary of Foraco International, a global leader in driller services based in France. Canadian operations were established in North Bay, Ontario, in 2006. Today the company provides a full range of drilling services to the mining and mineral exploration industries including surface and underground core drilling, rotary drilling, reverse circulation drilling, large diameter water wells, bulk sampling and underground drill and blast services. The well-being of Foraco employees has always been a priority for the company which today has over 90 drill rigs in Canada and more than 400 employees.

How did you hear about the program?

During the launch of the Health and Safety Excellence program in 2020, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board reached out to our Vice President Robert Steadman to explain the new program and potential benefits it may have for our organization.

Have you recognized a reduction in workplace injuries or an improvement in workplace safety culture?

Since starting the program, we have almost doubled the size of our workforce, many of the workers are new to the industry. Our total injury frequency rate remained steady through this transition, however the severity of the incidents reported has substantially decreased.

One thing the program has allowed us to do is identify those groups and activities that pose the highest risk to our employees. Based on this data we have been able to allocate resources to reduce or eliminate those injuries.

What are the benefits of the program for you?

There are many benefits, the most obvious being the safety of employees and the cost savings. Between the reduction in lost-time injuries and modified work hours, plus refunds received from WSIB, the workplace safety and financial benefits of the program cannot be ignored.

It’s important to note the cost savings are actually the end result of many other benefits that were developed as we worked through the Health and Safety Excellence program:

  • Real time data collection and management
  • Proactive hazard elimination rather then reactive hazard elimination
  • Cross-organization communication
  • More employee involvement
  • Consistency in training
  • Standardization across all sites
  • Higher levels of accountability
  • Greater focus on key performance indicators and resource allocation

The data have made all of these benefits very clear.

How did the Excellence program affect your workplace?

The program allowed us to identify gaps within our Health and Safety System requiring improvement. Within the physical workplaces, standards are being maintained and tracked; employees are actively engaged and participating in our health and safety programs; potential exposures to hazards are being communicated across all sites in real-time, and deficiencies identified in the field are actively tracked until they are corrected.

Would you recommend other firms joining the excellence program, and if so, why?

We would definitely recommend other firms join this program. Other safety certification programs such as ISO, Core, DEK are also available, but often require substantial investment to comply with and maintain. This program is in line with these programs and aligns well with their requirements.

Companies will want to complete this program as the self-directed approach allows for greater flexibility to develop, execute, maintain and adjust your health and safety program to meet your industries and project-specific demands. It is not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all standard. You choose the topics to focus on and that way the program is customized to meet the needs of your firm.

How has Workplace Safety North helped you successfully complete the program?

We were in touch with James Johnstone, a health and safety specialist at Workplace Safety North. He checks in frequently with us, answers any questions we have, and helps us get clarification on topics for our annual action plan.

Most of the time the WSIB auditor has additional questions, but we were so thorough when we made our submission for 2022, James let us know that Foraco was the first company he’d seen receive a 100% score from the WSIB validator on our first try.

For more information about the Health and Safety Excellence program, contact Rose Bedard


Health and Safety Excellence program – learn more

VIDEO 1.5 min. Excellence program explainer video

WSN Health and Safety Excellence Brochure 2023