With more than 6,200 employees across the country, Coca-Cola Canada takes seriously its responsibility to ensure all those associates make it safely to their families at the end of the day.

One way our bottling partner does this is by starting every day at our more than 50 facilities with a quick safety message to remind employees how easily-prevented accidents can be avoided. Another way it does that is by hiring Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE) Professionals to help lead the way and establish systems designed to keep employees safe.

In this edition of #DayintheLife I talked to David “Safety” Roberts,  National Manager, Safety and Environment for Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada (CCRC) to learn more about why creating a safe work environment is essential and how the job has evolved overtime.

“I wanted to be an engineer and follow in my father’s footsteps…”

Born and raised in Toronto, David Roberts never planned on becoming a safety manager.

“I wanted to be an engineer and follow in my father’s footsteps,” David says. “I went to university for it but in the last year of my program I was injured in a workplace accident.” It took David years to recover. This was the turning point that led him to jump feet first into learning about safety. “This is definitely more than a job, it’s personal for me.”

“You need to be a partner, not a police officer if you want to succeed…”

Safety manager is a complicated title in some ways. We all know what safety means but once you start attaching responsibilities to achieve it, things become a bit hazy. David was quick to set me straight on this point by explaining how his department is organized. He described how the national safety and environment manager at CCRC has a largely strategic role, maintaining existing programs and standards while also working to achieve safety and sustainability goals.

“I support the regional QHSE managers and specialists as a subject matter expert while they focus on things like training, compliance and implementation,” David explains. “But as the national safety and environment manager I also support our facilities on their individual projects. It is really important that in those cases you need to be a partner, not a police officer if you want to succeed. If you can’t engage with all levels of the organization, you won’t get anywhere.”

“It reinforces the idea that we all need to look out for each other…”

Generally when we think workplace safety, we imagine reflective vests, safety goggles, ear protection and steel-toed boots. What I quickly learn from David is that while all those things are important, the definition of “safety” is something constantly growing and evolving over time.

“Having an effective Internal Responsibility System (IRS) is key,” David begins. “Since I started as a safety professional however, IRS has gone beyond physical safety from preventable accidents and now covers equally important aspects like workplace violence and harassment. What underpins IRS is the philosophy that everyone in the workplace – employee and employer alike – is not only responsible for their own safety but the safety of their co-workers as well. It reinforces the idea that we all need to look out for each other.”

While the scope of what workplace safety is has expanded over the years, David firmly feels that its core guiding principle remains unchanged.

“Simply put: feeling safe and secure at work is fundamental to how we operate at Coca-Cola,” David says. “It’s all about creating a culture where safety is ingrained. That’s so important because safe workers feel empowered and empowered workers make amazing contributions.”

Coca-Cola Canada understands the immense trust placed in it to ensure that all of its employees from coast to coast make it home at the end of their shift. It requires an expert group of passionate safety professionals to meet this challenge which makes David Roberts specially qualified for the role- as he said himself “it’s more than a job, it’s personal.”