Air Canada: Winner of the Best Use of Safety Technology Award at the 2022 OHS Honors

Photo: AIR Canada

Air Canada workers spend a lot of time twisting, turning, bending and lifting.

It’s a diverse and complex organization with people doing many different jobs, said Joseph Bajzath, senior director, corporate security and emergency management at Air Canada.

It could be a worker in a hangar servicing an airplane. Or it could be an employee working in the cargo facility or loading passenger baggage onto an airplane.

Solutions from a weightlifter

There are a lot of opportunities for strains and sprains in these environments, Bajzath said. A solution came to his team’s venture across the pond in London.

“They found this company called Pristine Condition,” he said. “It’s run by a former weightlifter who introduced some basic principles for lifting properly. These are some of the techniques used in the weightlifting industry.

Air Canada adopted the company’s tactics for use as standard manual handling techniques, and the way it did so helped it win the Best Use of Safety Technology 2022 award at the recent gala. OHS Honors Awards Ceremony.

The challenge for the airline was to apply the techniques in practice. The simplest scenario was to put people in a classroom, Bajzath said.

“But when you came out on the line, the practical part of the training was a bit of a challenge,” he said. “We had to find a better way, or find other ways, to try to get that practical element and an understanding of the basics.”

The solution? Virtual reality. The airline turned to a virtual reality provider it was working with on another project to create a program to show staff the best handling techniques.

Employees are presented with a plane that is in the process of locking down, he said.

“And you’re a trail employee, and your job is to identify violations as part of that process,” he said.

Gamification drives competition

There is an element of gamification, as workers are rated – and they can see how they rank against their colleagues.

“It’s just another way to help drive, not only identifying some of the workplace hazards, but also helping drive behavior,” Bajzath said. “It’s one thing to learn them in class, but until you actually apply them, they don’t really resonate with you.”

The program is used in multiple ways – for initial training, recurrent training and in cases where an injury is reported.

“We take the opportunity to go through the techniques again with them, just reminding and refreshing how best to use them to avoid injury in the future,” Bajzath said.

The program paid off as Air Canada saw a “significant” drop in injuries when perfect condition techniques were first introduced, he said.

Feedback from workers has also been excellent, especially younger workers who tend to identify well with the virtual world.

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