NSCA Foundation

Revamping workplace safety following an incident

Atlas Steels Ltd

Tuesday, 23 April, 2019


Revamping workplace safety following an incident

A steel supply business has undertaken a series of practical measures to improve safety at the company, following the serious injury of one of its workers.

Mark Ellis, a warehouse operations clerk for Atlas Steels, suffered a serious leg injury that resulted from an incident at the company’s Ingleburn Service Centre. He had stepped back and collided with a multidirectional side-loader forklift.

As a result of the accident, Atlas introduced an improved traffic management plan and controls in consultation with its employees. One of its most important changes was the introduction of a personal awareness tool (PAT) — a base plate that has a pole with a strobe light on top. If a pedestrian stops to work in an aisle they must place PAT in front of the aisle, or at a safe distance from them, and turn the light on. The light is at eye level with the side-loader forklift operator and provides additional visual awareness to the operator, who must not enter beyond the point of PAT placement. As PAT is portable it can be used in a variety of locations.

The business has also ramped up training, particularly around traffic management and side-loader forklift operation, with an online interactive training system being built from the ground up and employees being put through refresher courses.

Leading from the top, consultation was conducted across the country, resulting in the development of a Safety Charter that depicts a ‘safety first’ approach. This charter clearly outlines the agreed minimum safety expectations for all employees, supervisors and managers, and it is prominently displayed at each site.

Since his accident, Ellis has conducted a series of presentations to his workmates and to the wider steel distribution industry.

According to National SEQ Manager Maree Mihaljevic, this has “demonstrated that this was real, not just an anonymous report or statistic but a worker who has a name and family. It highlighted his journey, the injury impact on others and the importance of working together in implementing and maintaining safety systems and processes with the presentation correlating with Mark’s passion for golf.”

Ellis has since made a successful return to work, but Mihaljevic said Atlas’s efforts to improve safety are ongoing.

“It’s relentless. The importance of having well risk-assessed safety systems and processes in place, especially where mobile plant is in use, is evident,” she said.

Atlas Regional Director John Pearson said that everyone in the wider community can learn from this incident to improve safety around mobile plant.

“If you walk or drive into any workplace, follow the signs and directions of the employees and maintain situational awareness to ensure your own safety and the safety of others,” he said.

Mihaljevic also urges companies not to disregard incidents simply because they have occurred in other businesses.

“If you read something that happened in another company, don’t just think ‘that’s horrible’ — act on it. Ask yourself if that incident or similar could happen in your business and what do you have to do to control that risk,” she said.

Atlas Steels acknowledges that this article was produced as a result of a SafeWork NSW Enforceable Undertaking.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/ARENA creative

NSCA Foundation is a member based, non-profit organisation working together with members to improve workplace health and safety throughout Australia. For more information and membership details click here
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