Vancouver Airport Authority manages and operates the Vancouver International Airport (YVR). The airport is operated under the provision of a long term lease with the Government of Canada. All excess of revenue over expenditures is re-invested in the business of the airport. YVR is Canada's second busiest airport, with an estimated 16.4 million passengers, 223,100 tons of cargo and 278,500 aircraft movements in 2005. The airport is located 12 kilometers south of the Vancouver central business district, on Sea Island in the City of Richmond.

The Authority has eight core business objectives. The first one is "Keeping Safety, Security and Environmental Excellence as Its # 1 Priority". The Authority has been recognized many times for its achievements in creating a healthy and safe workplace, namely:

  • 1999 and 2001 by The Canadian Society for Safety Engineering for having the best safety program for organizations 50 to 500 staff

  • In 2003, the Canadian Labour and Business Centre recognized the Authority as one of the top ten healthy workplaces in Canada

  • In 2004 the BC Society of Psychologists awarded the Authority the Psychological Healthy Workplace Award for having one of the healthiest workplace in British Columbia.

Good safety is not about programs and regulations but about people, and their relationship with the workplace. This paper provides an insight into the journey and thought process adopted by the Airport Authority, and explains the model they created which links research in the areas of human resources, behavioral and safety.


Twenty-five years of research into organizational effectiveness points to the conclusion that too many organizational and workplace factors directly contribute to poor safety and health, and lowered productivity. In general, these factors can be linked to the quality of leadership and management practices, work climate and culture, work processes, and promotion activities existing in the workplace. Fostering a healthy and safe organization requires comprehensive strategies. We know that in some combinations:

  • High demand

  • Low support

  • Poor involvement and

  • Low reward

Predict we will have:
  • Dissatisfaction

  • Ergonomic injuries

  • Drug abuse

  • Commitment

  • Decline in health and

  • Cardio-vascular disease

Leading to:
  • Low collaboration

  • Absenteeism

  • More accidents

  • Higher turnover

  • Poor engagement

  • Poorer productivity and

  • Customer dissatisfaction.

The solution to reducing accidents and injuries for the Authority did not lie within the last bullet cluster; but in the first bullet cluster. High accidents are symptoms of the management system not working. High demand, low support, poor involvement, low rewards are root causes that lead to employee dissatisfaction and eventually a number of risky behaviors.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.