When he’s not belting out rockabilly tunes with The Philistines, Luke Sullivan is likely to be coordinating the myriad of safety aspects of a concert for up to 100,000 people.

After 20 years in the construction industry as a dogman, rigger, concreter and the like, Luke decided to  give his brain cells a workout by completing an economics degree and embarking on a career in workplace safety and risk management. He became involved in civil engineering, logistics, maritime and manufacturing projects, and in 2011 was appointed Principal Advisor for HSE at Staging Connections, one of Australia’s largest event management companies.

“Our events can be anything from a flip chart and projector for 10 people to a Taylor Swift tour with hundreds of thousands of attendees,” Luke explains.

When he joined the company, fatalities and serious incidents at events around the world had placed the event management industry in a state of crisis and Luke was determined to change the company’s safety culture from complacency to commitment.

“I’m an outspoken critic of my own profession and urge my colleagues to adopt a steadfast high-risk focus,” Luke says.

“At any given time we have several tonnes of rigged AV equipment slung directly above people’s heads, which is a huge public risk.”

“Competency and skill-set management are critical in controlling this risk,” Luke says.

To meet the challenge, Luke garnered the support of senior management and set about developing the first risk management system designed specifically for events. He called it Stagesafe and made it available to staff via the company’s intranet and to the wider industry via a mobile app, ‘The Stagesafe App’. The system allows event crews to apply consistent safety controls at all shows, backed by thorough risk assessment and safe work procedures periodically reviewed by subject matter experts.

Given the geographical spread of the business and its young mobile workforce, Luke was aware that communication and consultation were vital in implementing the Stagesafe culture. He launched a quarterly newsletter with a ‘LukedIN’ column raising risk management issues and building safety awareness in the teams, published safety alerts to highlight ‘near misses’, and introduced the ‘Stagesafe Champion’ to acknowledge those who most contribute to the company’s new safety culture.

Within two years of implementing Stagesafe, lost time injuries halved at Staging Connections and Luke won the 2014 SafeWork Awards for best individual contribution to work health and safety by a WHS professional.

Have you made a difference to safety like Luke? We would love to hear from you. Entries in the 2015 SafeWork Awards are now open. Entry is quick, online and free. Apply now at safeworkawards.com.au.

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