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Focus on Leadership Nutrien keeps employees safe while helping to grow the world

Mike Webb is chief of human resources and chief administrative officer at Nutrien. Photo by Wil Andruschak © Postmedia Network Inc.

Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.

There’s no need to remind Mike Webb about physical distancing while working at the Calgary office of Nutrien, the world’s largest integrated agricultural company.

It’s ingrained behaviour these days for him and the approximately 450 other employees in the city, as well as thousands more around the world, thanks to a technology Nutrien implemented early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you get within six feet of someone, the device starts beeping,” says Webb, chief of human resources and chief administrative officer at

Nutrien, who works at the Calgary office along with several other executives.

Last spring, Nutrien partnered with tech company Triax Technologies to use its proximity-monitoring technology. Today, more than 8,000 of its workers wear these small plastic devices that beep when they come within two metres of each other, while at the same time tracing contacts among workers in the event of an outbreak.

“There is no place I feel safer than the office because of this technology, the PPE and other measures we’ve implemented,” says Webb, among the few workers at an office in Calgary.

The initiative might be novel for the company, spurred into use only by the pandemic.

But putting workers’ safety at the forefront isn’t new for Nutrien.

“Our two core values are safety and integrity,” he says. “We deal with a lot of risk — like people a kilometre underground mining potash.”

What’s more, Nutrien cannot afford to have operations shut down due to an outbreak.

“That’s bad for everybody,” Webb says, adding disruptions affect employees, customers, shareholders and, most importantly, the world’s food supply.

“The last thing the world needs right now is a food crisis.”

Indeed, Nutrien is a key cog in helping farmers produce crops — hence its mission statement: To grow the world from the ground up.

Although safety has always been a priority, Nutrien’s measures in this respect have been put to the test with COVID.

“Those efforts are now bearing fruit this spring planting season,” he says. “If we had hiccups, with workers falling sick, shutting operations, the nutrients wouldn’t be there for farmers’ next crop.”

Despite “passing the test posed by COVID,” safety concerns are always front and centre at Nutrien, Webb says.

“Every single decision we will ever make is through the lens of whether it is the safest approach for our employees.”

This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.

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