The busy Fairmont Vancouver Airport is the only luxury hotel and spa within the confines of the Vancouver International Airport and is located directly above the U.S. departures terminal. The award-winning facility has 220 employees and accordingly places a high value on staff training and workplace safety. Always seeking ways to improve this aspect of its business, management decided to pursue COR certification in the winter of 2010.
Fairmont Vancouver Airport is one of the first tourism-related organizations to obtain COR status, and its human resources director, Elizabeth Forgie, says she was keen about pursuing the certification as far back as 2009, when go2HR representatives discussed the then fledgling initiative during a presentation to the Vancouver Human Resources Directors Association. “I was very impressed by how COR could take workplace safety to a new level,” she recalls.
The hotel’s executive committee was equally impressed, so when auditors were recruited and trained by go2HR, it lost no time engaging their services. “As an airport-based hotel that handles a lot of traffic, we have to operate very efficiently and do whatever it takes to avoid compromising that efficiency,” says Forgie. “One of the biggest challenges any organization faces is the risks associated with young workers. They can think they’re invincible and don’t have the tools or skill set to assess workplace risks, such as those found in our large culinary department.” Working together through the COR program was an effective way to ensure that all workers are thinking more conscientiously about safety.
The COR auditor spent four days reviewing documentation and observing work routines at the hotel. “Also, a total of 35 staffers were interviewed, including people from all departments and work shifts,” says Forgie. The process helped prove that the hotel’s culture of safety extended to all levels, occupations and departments.
The Fairmont Vancouver Airport’s track record of safety made the audit more of an opportunity to polish its strong health and safety programs, rather than a necessity. “As of January 26, 2011, this hotel has worked 668 days without having time lost due to a workplace accident,” says Forgie. “Fairmont ensures that our annual budgets support our health and safety mission by supporting activities of the health and safety committee throughout the year. We also provide funding to put employees through occupational first-aid attendant training.” She points out that these and other elements made the COR audit “very much a collaborative process, a great way to be checked by a critical eye and see what we can do even better.”
Forgie was especially pleased that the audit engaged the entire Fairmont Vancouver Airport’s leadership team, not just a few representatives. The result, she says, is “a thorough trickle-down effect. Every leader engages the department heads, and every department head engages those in the next level down, and so on.”
The hotel was granted a COR Occupational Health and Safety certification on Dec. 7, 2010, and Forgie says the executive committee will seek a COR Return-to-Work certification later in 2011.
While COR’s monetary incentives are attractive — they can include as much as a 15 per cent financial incentive on annual WorkSafeBC premiums — Forgie believes the certification’s real benefits go way beyond dollars and cents. “When a large organization like the Fairmont invests in something as comprehensive as COR, it sends a message to employees that we care about their well-being,” she says. “It not only encourages them to take issues like safety seriously, it helps with employee morale overall, not to mention staff retention and new recruitment initiatives.”
By January 2011, Forgie and her colleagues were busy implementing suggestions made by the go2HR auditor. “They amount to an enhancement of existing policies and procedures,” she says. As for the fact that ongoing maintenance will be required under COR guidelines, Forgie concludes, “we welcome subsequent audits. We strongly believe this process is the right thing to do.”