Matt Freeman, Inside Resources
The country’s largest quarrying company initiated a health and safety “step-up” in October last year.
Winstone Aggregates allocated an additional $1 million across its 17 quarries to address "Some outstanding items and continue our health and safety journey to go beyond simply delivering EHS to look at how we could really engage our people to lift our safety culture,” says general manager David Welsh.
“This meant involving the whole team from the front line to management and recognising that change is as much about culture as it is about systems, processes and engineering. The key for us was getting everyone involved in both the identification of hazards and fixing them.”
Backed by the firm belief that all injuries are preventable the company held a series of stop-work meetings and asked for ‘fresh eyes’ from its people to help identify hazards and risks.
“This followed two serious accidents resulting from falls from height as well as near misses that had us really worried," says Welsh. "We wanted to have some sort of intervention across the business."
Plant access and fall-from-height were identified as risks needing some additional attention.
“The next thing we did was get all the site managers on the phone and advise them we were shutting everything down and facilitating a discussion with our people, getting them together to talk face to face,” he says. “We reviewed the incidents and were clear with our people that we must make changes to mitigate or eliminate the risks associated with working at height."
“We then got everyone thinking about our ‘golden rules’ to question where is it more challenging to follow them because of the design, procedure or training? Our golden rules are a set of simple rules to control the risk of serious injury from critical risk activities.
“We asked the team for their help to identify the issues and suggest how can we fix them and consequently found that there needed to be a serious focus on fixed plant access and mobile crushing plant.”
Welsh reports that 15-20% of the issues identified were very easy to change. Another 15% of issues took a bit more time to work through but were still low-hanging fruit. “Many of the risks required engineering changes,” he says.
Welsh says that the company got its people fully involved to break the problem down as well as to help redesign the system.
“What we’re learning about our safety is while you can have critical risks eliminated with physical items such as barriers and so on, to achieve real change it is about the culture,” he says.
“It’s also about everyone having skin in the game," he says. "If our people identify and fix the issues, they are likely to remember them and protect them once they are running again.
"I can now turn up to a quarry and grab anyone and they can comfortably all speak to the changes and what else they still have to do or have further identified. It’s a true team effort,” says Welsh.
A worker who was injured from a fall that led to the new programme agreed to participate in an internal company video designed to show others what the risks are.
Welsh says that the worker involved said, “I thought it would never happen to me”.
Winstone shared this risk identification and containment work with its WorkSafe partners.
Across parent company Fletcher Building the group has a Total Recordable Injury Frequency Rate (number of injuries per million man-hours worked) of just over 5. Through a series of company-wide initiatives it is looking to bring this under 5 in coming years.
Within the Winstone and Firth division the TRIFR averages closer to 2 which divisional chief executive Ian Jones says is “A very good result, but one we should always be looking to improve. They are not numbers, but actual people being injured at work.
“The right focus on health and safety has now been shown to deliver more than just benefits to our reporting numbers,” he says. “Identifying and solving problems together is a great vehicle for coming up with solutions and motivating our teams.”
Welsh agrees. “One of our goals is for our staff to be more interdependent. Once people are given a voice and actively involved in creating safer workplaces then that’s the standard we are aiming for."
Welsh says his plea to the rest of the industry is to do the same. “Talk to your people and really get them to think what it would be like if they [for example] fell from a height? Or ask them, would you let your kids or best mate do that? How would you make it safer for them? It could save one of your team’s lives.”