Did you know that 113 people were killed in Australian workplaces in 2020? (as at 24th Sept) and 106 260 people experienced serious workplace injuries. (2016 – 2017) The year 2020 is proving even MORE of a challenge with management of Covid-19!
This may have been someone’s dad, mum, husband, wife, sister, brother, friend or work colleague. They have headed to work, like any other day and their fates have been sealed in a workplace tragedy.
How can we still be experiencing a staggering number of people being killed or seriously injured in the workplace in 2020?
October marks National Safe Work Month and a timely reminder of “Why Safety SHOULD be important to YOU!”
We asked Dee Brough, who has worked for more than a decade as a Safety Advisor in a range of industries, to share some insights into her Safety journey.
Where did you begin your career in safety?
Dee: I had the privilege of starting my safety career at Coca-Cola Amatil. The company at the time, were embarking on a behavioural safety journey, led by Jon Baker (Head of Health and Safety - CCA). Jon had a vision for the company to embed strong safety values that would shape the safety landscape, empowering workers to become actively involved in its safety management. The changes were notable, leading to significant cultural change and sustainable safety systems. This was a period of time that fuelled my passion for safety, to be able to make a real difference in people’s lives.
How can businesses make a difference in their Safety Cultures?
Dee: I am not sure I am a fan of the word/s ‘Safety Culture or Safety Culture Journeys’. I would rather perceive it as ‘Values’.
Values underpin the ethos of the organisation as a whole. People are the greatest asset within any business. It makes good business sense to protect your greatest asset. Your workers possess a wealth of information, as they do the hard yards of the tasks on the ground floor, every single day.
Who is better placed to let you know how things are working (or not working:) or what could be improved on the safety front than workers themselves? This consultation helps a business understand the true nature of the tasks and potential solutions. These need not necessarily be expensive or complex controls. It is about having conversations with the teams to understand what the issues are and what can be done to improve them.
Let me share an example. At one company I worked at, the safety committee presented a ‘Pictionary’ style format to the maintenance department about all the recommendations to improve traffic management on site (it was formalised in a Risk Assessment document) however the consultation with the committee members was key.
The result? – the maintenance team said it was the most refreshing and easy way to receive suggested improvements. The majority of controls were implemented within one week. The committee were ecstatic to see the changes they recommended come to fruition so quickly and notably, that it significantly improved traffic management on site. A win/win for all parties and actually a bit of fun coming up with ideas that way.
How important is it for everyone in the workplace to be involved in safety initiatives?
Dee: It is absolutely key. When a company and its workers have committed to the values for safety and they are embraced, it is very evident on the floor. It just becomes ‘the way we do things here’. My brother said to me recently that he had a short stint of contract work at Australia Post. He commented that the safety measures were quite ‘full on’. I asked him – ‘How so?’. He said he was operating a pallet jack, however wasn’t aware of a particular process. He said that he had been pulled up and shown what to do instead. I asked him about the person’s interactions who had ‘pulled him up’. I asked – ‘Who was the person? How did they approach telling you? How did you feel about it?’.
He answered – ‘just a co-worker’, ‘she was lovely about it’, ‘fine – she just politely let me know what I needed to do the job more safely’.
I said to him ‘How wonderful is that!’. He looked at me quizzingly. I went on to say:
This person was ‘not a supervisor, nor manager, nor a safety advisor’.
This means she was likely to have felt:
* Empowered - She knew the values of the business. She may never have read a Policy, however she knew the process expected and how it was required to be embedded into the daily tasks.
* Safe to have a conversation – This is a big one. She felt quite comfortable to have a safety conversation with a co-worker, to let my brother know how the task could be done more safely. Wow! Never underestimate the power of a conversation.
Essentially, we ask workers to take on the responsibility of looking out for their own safety AND that of their colleagues. That is exactly what she did in this situation. As a manager, I would feel wrapped that my team member was able to do this and do it in such a way, that the person on the receiving end, felt that she genuinely cared.
Without ever having worked at Australia Post, I would say that their safety culture or values is well-embedded and embraced. A clear case of ‘the way we do things here’ demonstrated by the conversation had with my brother.
Is training alone sufficient to change safety culture?
Dee: I am a Trainer and Assessor as well as a Safety Advisor. I believe training is such an important part of Safety and for Life-long learning. Whilst training and assessment is a critical component for building confidence within your teams to help embed safety values/culture, it isn’t a stand-alone component.
A good safety management framework requires a holistic approach. This means establishing a safety plan to include Policies, procedures, pro-active (and simple) safety tools, training and competency assessments, safe work procedures, unbiased incident investigation opportunities, monitoring and auditing. To ensure it is sustainable, it does require a budget. Continuous improvement should always be the goal.
Training, particularly safety training need not be boring! I particularly like the style of training that F.A.S.T. First Aid Training adopts, as is fun, engaging and made relevant for the workplace. For compliance training, look to providors that offer something unique as well as being adaptable/flexible during the pandemic.
Workers are more likely to retain training information if it is a highly engaging environment.
What can a business expect from embracing good safety management?
· Engagement – this is no surprise here, however when people feel heard, they feel valued. When they see change occur as a result of their input, it makes for enormous impact to productivity and well-being. It shows that a business truly cares about their greatest asset - their people.
· A significant reduction in injuries – I have seen this firsthand, where engagement has significantly increased, a greater sense of trust developed and even when simple measures introduced, the injury rates dramatically fall. This makes for a safer workplace and shows everyone is communicating.
· Near Miss reporting increases – More workers become comfortable with reports of what ‘could’ of happened. This is a critical change in behaviours, as your team become more aware of the potential risks in the business. Workers trust that if reported, something will be done to address the problem. This level of transparency is good for business.
· Increased Hazard Reporting – As your team become more aware or involved, they will start to offer more input about hazards seen in the workplace.
· Lowered costs – Often when a pro-active approach is taken with safety, it has a significant impact to improving the bottom line.
· A boost in confidence for workers – If your workers feel that they have been given the relevant training/instruction and able to implement in the workplace, they shall feel more confident to enact.
What would you suggest if a business has very little in the way of a safety system implemented?
· Look to your basic compliance and ensure this is in place and regularly refreshed. These are business must-do’s. E.g. First Aid, CPR/CPR refreshers, Warden Training, Fire Safety Training, Low Voltage Rescue etc.
· Work as a team to understand the highest risks within the business, undertake risk assessments so you can understand how to manage them. This doesn’t need to be complex, the goal is to understand what they are, how to eliminate or reduce the risk/s. Read the Codes of Practice as this will help you know what is required.
· Consult, Consult, Consult – keep communications open with the team so you can work together on how to manage safety in the workplace.
The result? A safer workplace – let’s make sure the mums, dads, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends and colleagues return home safely each AND every day.
Together we can do it. Does this make you reflect about why safety SHOULD be important to YOU?
Dee is happy to answer any questions that you may have – feel free to leave a comment.
Please share this BLOG so that we can all take the time to reflect and make a difference.
Note: Stats from Worksafe QLD website