Building a culture of safety

Coles Group & Myer Corporate Services
Friday, 07 August, 2009

Nestlé’s manufacturing plant in Campbellfield, Victoria, takes safety very seriously. It’s a culture that’s embraced and practised by every employee, from senior management to those on the shop floor and the company enjoys a good safety record as a result.

The plant’s Safety, Heath and Environment (SHE) Manager, John Roffey, points out that this didn’t come about by accident: “We constantly search for ways to improve safety and have always encouraged a proactive attitude towards it. We do have a good safety record, but we can’t afford to rest on it. We want safety to be a natural part of everyone’s work day. Safety hasn’t changed over the years. It’s the message that needs to evolve, so we’re more effective at practising it.”

The facility’s SHE Coordinator, John Wilson, adds: “Accidents are not natural, so as safety staff, we’re constantly looking for ways to further develop our safety culture and prevent accidents. Some of our aims are to get staff to instinctively put on their PPE, without having to think about doing it, and to regularly check their environment to ensure it’s safe, rather than neglecting it. All of these, and more, contribute to our safety culture.”

The 400-plus staff all genuinely believe in safety - for themselves as well as for their fellow workers. The plant runs constant safety themes to drive home key aspects of safety, the current theme being: ‘I want a workplace that’s injury free and if that’s going to happen, it’s up to me.’

“Years ago, there used to be the mentality here that safety was management’s responsibility,” continues Roffey. “But our culture has moved to recognise safety as everyone’s responsibility and we created the Safety Hero program as part of it. Initially it was designed to create awareness - to point out and report unsafe areas. Staff were encouraged to speak out about safety concerns, but not necessarily to take ownership of them. But now it’s moved to a program of action - doing something about unsafe situations to make them safe.

“The program now recognises and acknowledges staff who are proactive about making our workplace safe. People are nominated anonymously by their peers and management, with Safety Heroes recognised at monthly factory briefings, along with an explanation of their initiative. They also receive a Coles gift card as an expression of the company’s appreciation; and since nominations are anonymous, the acknowledgement and recognition are seen as very credible.”

Commenting on the effectiveness of gift cards as a reward for safety initiatives, Luke Seager, National Business Development Manager for Coles Group and Myer Corporate Services, states: “Around 40% of our industrial clients use gift cards as part of a safety incentive or recognition program. It’s common for organisations to help reinforce strong safety cultures by creating award plans to acknowledge their employees for positive occupational safety achievements. To associate the reward back to the employer, we can leave personalised messages from the company within a presentation folder.

“Many businesses may not be aware that current taxation legislation includes a fringe benefit tax exemption for safety awards of up to $200 per employee each year. This provides a financial benefit to the company in addition to the safety benefits. As with any taxation situation, professional advice on individual circumstances should be sought.”

A proactive safety culture is extremely important to the effectiveness of every safety program for Nestlé. That’s why the company acknowledges positive initiatives. Engagement in its safety programs is a vital component to keeping the workplace safe. One example of how this is manifest is the involvement of all staff in observing each other’s behaviour to voluntarily make at least one observation per month and anonymously report it, with the view to discuss and resolve the observed unsafe practices.

Roffey expands on the importance of this culture: “I can’t make a person work safe. I can give them the tools, instructions, procedures and reasons, but the worker has to actually want to practise it. The desire to practise safety has to come from within. It becomes a ‘lifestyle’.

“We can have all the administration processes and procedures in place, but we also need to have the behaviour in place. That’s when you get your safety culture entrenched in your operations.”

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