Brewery revamps health and safety systems for OSSE certification

The recipe for safety culture at Vancouver Island Brewing includes safety awards for workers and new risk assessment training for its JHS committee. 

Photo of the Vancouver Island Brewing team holding their OSSE certification certificate.

Vancouver Island Brewing team
Photo credit: Vancouver Island Brewing, used with permission

Vancouver Island Brewing (VIB) is one of the most recent companies to earn the Occupational Safety Standard of Excellence (OSSE) certification They are the fourth brewery in B.C. to do this. (See the article in Nanaimo’s Business Examiner.)

OSSE is a health and safety certification program for B.C. manufacturers and food processors. The Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC (the Alliance) certifies a company after verifying that its health and safety program has reached the B.C. provincial COR standard. The goal is to build successful health and safety management systems that reduce workplace injuries and contribute to long-term productivity.

To find out more, I contacted Tierra Madani, VIB’s senior manager of People & Organizational Development. (I spoke with Tierra recently for my post Finding shared values in multigenerational workplaces.) She says it all started back in 2017 when an Alliance safety advisor offered a free audit of VIB’s health and safety program.

“We had something in place, but it wasn’t engaging. It wasn’t working,” she says. “So we had to pretty much build our program from scratch. We then built 32 programs and policies from the ground up. We thought if we were going to do it, then it might as well be the gold standard.”

Celebrating workers for their actions around safety

One of VIB’s new initiatives is Safety in Action awards for staff who step up to help others stay safe. Says Tierra: “Our territory manager was acknowledged for sharing great ergonomic tips to staff who work on the road.” Tierra explains that the territory manager and sales reps often travel, and they lug heavy products around and build displays. The tips were about proper lifting, safety on the road, and making sure you’re staying healthy while you’re working.

Tierra described a second example: “The maintenance team stepped up to help our events crew with a very last-minute but important fix of their events trailer. At the time, we were really busy at the brewery, and our maintenance team said, ‘We’ll get it done today so that you can be ready for the event tomorrow’. So we highlighted their team for prioritizing to help another team.”

Having an active joint health and safety committee

The joint health and safety committee (JHS) at VIB is using the key risk inventory from WorkSafeBC. (I wrote about the key risk inventory in my post Using a key risk inventory helps manage safety risk.)

The committee also went through training on how to use a risk matrix to assess every job at the brewery for health and safety risks.

“We look at the likelihood and the consequence, then compare and prioritize which are the higher risk hazards versus the lower risk hazards,” Tierra says. She says they address each hazard according to the hierarchy of controls. (See more on assessing risk on

Achievement through difficult times

Tierra says it was a challenge to keep on track during the pandemic, but they were thankful to have already done much of the groundwork to build their program before the pandemic hit.

Lisa McGuire, Alliance CEO, praised the work of VIB. She says, “Vancouver Island Brewing achieved OSSE through some of the most difficult times in B.C., which is a testament to their values of putting people first. Achieving OSSE certification requires a commitment from all employee levels, providing the foundation to creating safe, sustainable workplaces.”

Thanks to Tierra for speaking with me and congratulations to everyone being acknowledged for their actions.

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