Spotlight on CSSE Members

Outstanding Achievement Award 2021 (BC Lower Mainland Chapter)

Michelle Petrusevich

The CSSE Outstanding Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has accomplished a significant goal for the occupational health and safety (OHS) community. The 2021 winner, Michelle Petrusevich, has done just that.

As the Public Safety Manager at FortisBC, Michelle works hard to prevent accidents caused by damage to the company’s natural gas lines during work such as home renovations or construction projects. The main way to do this is through education—no easy task. Michelle and her team have faced numerous challenges, including getting the public to contact FortisBC for information on natural gas lines before digging, and difficulty reaching a segmented and distracted audience.

Despite the safety hazards and costly repairs when natural gas lines are damaged, FortisBC found that many contractors and homeowners weren’t contacting BC 1 Call to request free location information. This was due to myths that people believed about natural gas lines, such as thinking that they’re buried lower than they are or that they are difficult to damage. In addition, sometimes a lack of coordination between homeowners and contractors prevents the call from being made for dig information. All of this was uncovered in research commissioned by the company.

The research also showed that the audience that Michelle and her team was trying to reach was segmented into two main groups, with little overlap. These groups were also very distracted by the large number of public safety announcements surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although these challenges were not easy to overcome, they served as motivation for Michelle and her team to work harder to come up with innovative solutions. The team had a small budget and a large audience that required targeted communication, so Michelle had to be creative in her approach.

Her plan began with 25 different social media ad placements on traditional platforms, such as Facebook, targeting the two groups: homeowners and contractors. With those platforms performing well, she looked for new avenues and landed on unconventional ones, such as Spotify and Pinterest. Spotify was used to engage with folks who prefer that medium to radio, and Pinterest was chosen to target do-it-yourself homeowners. In order to connect with the hard-to-reach younger population, Michelle also partnered with the Centre for Digital Media to create a prototype for a mobile game to help educate this group on the topic.

In addition to the mass media campaign, Michelle had an innovative approach to obtaining coverage from media outlets. She set up direct contact with FortisBC’s damage prevention officers so that she and her team could learn where and when accidents occurred. The corporate communications advisor immediately reached out to media outlets to share information and promote FortisBC’s “Click or call before you dig” messaging.

From 2018 to 2020, damage to FortisBC’s infrastructure decreased by 19%, while the number of tickets issued by BC 1 Call increased. In 2020, the company issued over 141,000 tickets and was on track to issue 163,000 tickets in 2021. This number has been rising steadily since Michelle began her job as Public Safety Manager 11 years ago.

Members like Michelle demonstrate the importance of OHS roles in the workplace and the community and embody the spirit of what we believe in at CSSE. Thank you to Michelle for her outstanding contributions to the OHS industry, and congratulations!

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