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We invited award-winning Edmonton journalist, Curtis Gillespie, to interview leaders and members of Team EPCOR to provide a unique perspective on our role and commitment to ESG. For this article, Curtis spoke with Duane Duhamel to learn more about EPCOR's safety culture.

Safe and sound

Safety and passion might not seem natural partners at first glance, since we often equate safety with caution and passion with abandon. But for Duane Duhamel, EPCOR's Director of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE), safety and passion are not only linked but mutually reinforcing. To him, EPCOR's people aren't going to feel as passionate about their work if they don't feel safe and cared for, and they're not going to be as safe at work if the organization isn't passionate about health and safety. It's got to flow both ways to flourish.

Duhamel just celebrated his second year with EPCOR, but prior to that he worked with significant companies in the utilities, energy, petrochemical and aerospace sectors. His experience has led him to draw some fundamental conclusions. “EPCOR believes in safety," he says. “The fact that this portfolio reports to an executive at the leadership table is one sign among many that they take it extremely seriously."

HSE is a core component of everything EPCOR does. If you ask its employees what they do, you'd get thousands of answers. If you ask about overarching priorities, you'd get fundamentally similar answers: every employee safe at work and every customer safe at home.

It's also worth noting in light of the pandemic that safety is psychological as well as physical. EPCOR has been mindful, for instance, of the mental health and work-life balance of employees, both those who continued to work on site and the 1,900 staff who have been working from home, which carries a different kind of emotional and professional pressure. It wasn't just about checking in, either. Extra Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was made available to employees. Care kits, including masks and sanitary supplies, were delivered to employees who were working from home. EPCOR COVID Health Outlook (ECHO), a mobile-supported online health screening tool, helped give employees assurance about their health at work.

“All in all,” says Duhamel, “we can be proud that 2020 was actually our best year ever, from an injury prevention perspective. The maturity of our culture and the existing processes we have in place was part of it, but the pandemic also brought a heightened sense of awareness about safety and health."

Pandemic or not, HSE is a road you travel toward building a company-wide culture. It takes time and commitment at every level, but also recognizing that people can be reluctant to change unless they see the value. Which means HSE advances most significantly when you can motivate employees in two different but complementary ways. You must have leadership endorsement and grassroots engagement, both of which EPCOR has. Employees must be empowered to embody the process, hence the HSE Starts With Me mantra.

You bring it to life through having people know it's imperative to report hazardous or unsafe work conditions, to report close calls or near misses, to involve the entire team in creating solutions, by making the process simple and consistent.

“It's really about creating meaningful employee engagement," says Duhamel. “The goal is to have HSE embedded across the organization, from field crews, to teams operating our plants and through our service centers and corporate offices. No matter where you go, there's a “hand in glove fit" between HSE for employees and for the essential services to the communities we serve."

Of course, we will never be able to eliminate human imperfection, no matter how good our HSE systems are. “Humans make mistakes," says Duhamel. “But a mistake should never cost someone their life." Or even an injury. Rather, it's about helping employees to continuously improve, to stay focused, to build in redundancy, to make processes and situations as safe as possible. Programs such as EPCOR Athletes, which helps employees weave biomechanics into everyday tasks, contribute to physical safety. It's also that when a person does make a mistake—and we all do—it's a process failure and not a serious injury or fatality. Because let us never forget, EPCOR's work environment can be very high-risk. High-volume pipes, hazardous chemicals, excavation, trenching, high-voltage electricity and live lines. But, as Duhamel notes, the trends are moving in the right direction. The severity of injuries is decreasing, partly due to enhancing and reinforcing the HSE culture. It's not just about rules and regulation; it's about understanding people and weaving that understanding into a strong HSE philosophy.

“This is what safety 2.0 looks like," says Duhamel. “By diving deeper into how we work and why we err when we do, we can get ahead in recognizing and addressing it, so that we are always looking at how to help our people be successful."

 EPCOR's safety culture

In 2020, EPCOR provided extra Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to employees, and delivered care kits to those working from home. A secure online health screening tool was also launched for team members to complete their daily survey before reporting to work.


​Year ​Total Recordable Injury Frequency ​Lost Time Injury Frequency
​2017 ​1.12 ​0.16
​2018* ​2.35 ​0.35
​2019 ​1.44 ​0.13
​2020 ​1.03 ​0.06

*2018 marks the first full year of operations following the integration of the Edmonton Drainage utility in the third quarter of 2017.

Promoting health and safety is one way we're building stronger communities

We're committed to helping our communities by protecting the environment and promoting social responsibility. We do that by conducting our business responsibly, with openness and transparency. We're pleased to share our ESG report to showcase our performance in areas that are important to us—our customers, our partners, and the communities we serve.

See our ESG report