Hire a hero for your workplace

In 2004, at just 23 years of age, Ben Houlison lost the use of his legs and became a paraplegic after a mining accident.

Thankfully, his infectious humour and positive outlook on life survived intact because soon after his accident Ben surprised family, friends and even himself when he launched into a demanding competitive rowing career.

Despite numerous difficulties and a cloying dread of early morning training, Ben persevered to become a NSW State Champion in 2006.

“I got hooked on the freedom I felt on the water,” Ben said. “And of not being on wheels.”

Ben now boasts an Australian Rowing Championship and a World Rowing Championship bronze medal on his list of achievements – not to mention a recent marriage to long-time girlfriend and stalwart supporter, Jemma.

“Getting married to Jemma was the best day of my life.”

Now 34, Ben has grown weary of sore muscles and dawn starts.

He prefers spending time sharing his triumphs, trials and tribulations on the WorkCover Paralympian speakers’ circuit as well as managing a successful work health and safety consultancy business.

“Once you experience a workplace accident, you never want someone to go through what my family had to,” he said.

Ben is making it his purpose to caution others against a similar fate in the workplace, using his experience of serious injury to stimulate change in workplace behaviour.

The speakers’ program reaches thousands of workers each year and, during 2014, the Paralympians visited more than 175 businesses across metropolitan and regional NSW.

For more than a decade WorkCover has been in partnership with the Australian Paralympic Committee, providing free workplace visits for eligible NSW businesses.

The WorkCover Paralympic Speakers Program provides personal support and motivation for those returning to work and is aimed at raising awareness of workplace safety on a face to face level.

Ben is one of nine accomplished Paralympians who are dedicated to reducing the risk of injury at work.

His remarkable success as an athlete demonstrates how it is not only possible to return to work and life after a catastrophic injury, but to come back stronger and more determined.

Today, while his single scull collects dust in the back shed, Ben savours a laid-back country life on his Lithgow farm, complete with Angus cows, ewes and border collies.

“I now live and breathe farming – on wheels,” Ben says with a laugh.

Book a WorkCover Paralympian speaker to inspire your workplace or email paralympian@workcover.nsw.gov.au for more information and eligibility.

Wicked boss keeps workers safe

Staff at Wicked Berries create dream treats in a model workplace, thanks to the diligence of their not-so-wicked employer.

A focus on worker safety and getting back to basics has helped Wicked take out Best Workplace Health and Safety Practices in a Small Business at the 2014 WorkCover SafeWork Awards.

Wicked Berries specialise in indulgent chocolate dipped strawberries and deliver their products Australia wide.

Packing and handling forms a big part of the work involved, which comes with its own safety risks, but Wicked’s Director, Mr Kerry O’Sullivan, a former baker well-aware of workplace safety, is set on making sure his facilities are safe.

“I guess because it’s not something a lot of businesses tend to focus on; because we’re doing franchising I just made it a habit of ticking all the boxes on that side of things,” Kerry said.

While the micro business employs just five staff, developing a work health and safety system was a key strategy to support the growing business in the long term.

The company is currently branching out as a franchise and they know work health and safety is a crucial factor to attract staff and ensure productivity.

“Imagine having 40 or 50 franchises and then having to implement it all later,” said Kerry.

“If it’s happening right from the start it forms part of the procedure for everyone.

“If everyone’s safe at work it means better productivity and a better workplace. That’s proven. It covers so many different aspects of a business.”

To win the award, Wicked Berries had to show what risks were identified, how they were addressed and what the outcomes were.

Kerry listed hazardous manual tasks such as the storage and handling of stock boxes, movement of stock and high shelving as challenges they overcame through better practice.

Their innovative safety improvements and adjustments have helped to secure longevity for their enviable zero ‘injuries resulting in time off’ record.

Some of the changes they implemented were machinery safeguards, anti-fatigue mats and visible safety procedures, but by far the most useful and easy were storage boxes that are colour-coded by weight.

“Colour coding boxes was the most dramatic change. The colour coding definitely works It’s so simple,” said Kerry.

“Going up ladders for stock posed a problem.

“Now that heavier items are shelved lower down, workers only have to lift light stock from the top and they’re happy about that.”

Wicked Berries also instituted procedures like staff induction and risk control training and franchisee training and information, making sure work health and safety is deeply embedded in the culture of the business.

Kerry believes the key to his winning workplace is walking the walk and says the award gives them credibility as a workplace with integrity that cares about the welfare of its staff.

“Having everything in place is one thing, enforcing it is another,” Kerry said.

“Get the basics right first.

“Assess your business independently, judge it on its own merits and find out what needs to be addressed.

“Your employee is number one so find out the risks and tackle that.”

Helping an injured worker get back to work

If you’ve been in business since 2012, you may be familiar with the workers compensation reforms introduced at that time.

At the centre of the reforms was a fundamental shift in thinking to focus on what an injured worker can do (capacity) rather than what they can’t (incapacity). The change was important for a number of reasons.

For a start, the longer someone has off work after an injury, the less chance they have of ever returning. People who get back on the job sooner have better health, financial and social outcomes in the long run. Secondly, work keeps people active, focused and connected, and can also help with managing pain. Work is often the best medicine.

As an employer you can have a huge impact on how well someone does after being injured at work. But where do you start? We know that every injury and every workplace is different, and we know that workers compensation can be complex.

To help make sure you’re prepared if one of your team is injured at work, we’ll be publishing a series of short articles in the WorkCover Wrap over the next few months. We will cover topics that we get lots of questions about such as developing a return to work plan, modified duties and employer incentives. We will also share some inspiring stories and interviews.

The WorkCover NSW Certificate of Capacity – what is it and why is it important?

To kick off the series we’re explaining one of the key documents that you will need to understand if you have an injured worker. The WorkCover NSW Certificate of Capacity replaced the old medical certificate issued by the doctor of an injured worker.

And like the title suggests, it is focused on what the worker can do, not what they can’t. When your worker signs the certificate, they give permission for the information to be shared with you and the insurer.

A properly completed certificate is important because the recommendations made by the doctor help you to find suitable work, so that your worker can return to work and recover at work.

The certificate is updated by the doctor at regular intervals, particularly as your worker’s capacity for work improves. Each version should cover a period of no greater than 28 days, unless there is good reason such as a serious or severe injury.

Making early contact with the doctor can help them to complete the certificate. You can discuss your worker’s normal duties and availability of other duties. You can even contact the doctor before the first certificate is issued, provided your worker agrees.

It’s OK to ask the doctor questions about the information on the certificate. You might ask what your worker can do, or how long the doctor expects the worker to take to return to normal duties. Ask whether the worker drive or use public transport and what you can do to help them recover at work.

And importantly, ask the doctor what’s the best way to communicate with them about your worker’s progress.

Workplace safety and the law: 10 things every small business should know

Running a small business is hard work, but that doesn’t mean safety has to be. Here are 10 things you can do that will help your business comply with work health and safety regulations and keep your team safe.

  1. Make sure you have a workers compensation policy if you need one – ie if you employ workers on a full-time, part-time or casual basis and pay more than $7500 in annual wages.
  2. Make time to talk about safety and get input from your workers. For example, regular ‘toolbox talks’ are a great way to keep safety top of mind and drill down into health and safety concerns.
  3. Make sure everyone, especially new or young workers, is properly trained and understands how to do their work safely.
  4. Be aware of potential safety issues (for example manual handling, working from heights, missing guards on machinery) and put in place safe working procedures.
  5. Provide adequate workplace facilities such as appropriate lighting, flooring, toilets and access to water.
  6. Have necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) available and keep a few spares and different sizes on hand so everyone is covered.
  7. Record any workplace injuries in a register to get on top of recurring safety problems.
  8. If there is there is a serious safety incident at your workplace notify WorkCover.
  9. Have a recover at work program to help injured workers return to work.
  10. If in doubt ask for help – give WorkCover a call on 13 10 50 or speak with your industry or business chamber contact.

Transport companies make long haul health commitment

There’s a new place to get healthy in 2015, and it’s not the gym or the doctor. In fact, it’s a place where most Australians already spend about a third of their life – work.

More than 850 workplaces across NSW have already made a pledge to support healthier lifestyles by embracing a new free workplace health service called Get Healthy at Work.

Get Healthy at Work is a $12 million NSW Government initiative that makes it easy for businesses to support workers in making healthier food choices, becoming more physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight. Participating workplaces can also use the service to support the resolutions of workers who want to quit smoking or reduce their alcohol intake.

In response to data that shows many transport workers are at high risk of developing chronic disease, particularly Type 2 diabetes and heart disease*, two transport companies have been among the first to implement their Get Healthy at Work programs.

In Sydney, TNT Australia made a number of changes at its Enfield worksite to support workers in making healthier food choices and exercising more. These included overhauling its canteen menu boards to offer healthier options, ‘traffic light’ stickers in each truck to remind drivers of healthy eating choices and new partnerships with local associations, gyms and health insurers to offer better deals for employees.

“Feedback from staff indicates they are healthier, they tend to be happier and more are making informed food and lifestyle choices,” said TNT General Manager – Workplace Risk, Chris Zichy-Woinarski.

Employee engagement was another benefit the business attributed to the enhanced focus on health.

“The minute you start to take a sincere interest in your people, in turn they take a more sincere interest and investment in the company – and that’s good for business,” Mr Zichy-Woinarski said.

In Tamworth, Carey’s Freight Lines has launched both weight loss and fitness challenges as part of a workplace health program developed with support from a Get Healthy at Work workplace health provider.

For Marco Rindo, Work, Health, Safety and Compliance Manager, the benefits for both the workers and the business are obvious.

“Healthy workers are happier in their work, less likely to be home sick and also more productive when they are at work. For drivers in particular, a healthy, fitter worker is more alert and less likely to become fatigued and put at risk themselves or others on the road,” he said.

“Our drivers have really taken the idea and run with it, with our own ‘Biggest Loser’ competition as well as a ‘Fitness Fanatic’ challenge for the guys that don’t have so much weight to lose. It’s great to see everyone encouraging each other along the way.”

Executive Director of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division, Peter Dunphy, said it was fantastic to see workers in one of the most high-risk industries for chronic disease embracing the opportunity to get healthy at work.

“The working environment has an undeniable impact on the health of an individual, particularly when you consider how much time the average Australian spends at work throughout their life,” he said.

“For truck drivers, the lifestyle of long hauls, shift work and fast food means obesity, diabetes and heart disease can often be major health issues.

“Simply planning ahead for better food, or making healthier choices such as drinking water instead of soft drink can have a huge impact on weight and general wellbeing.”

Joining those in the transport industry, workers in the manufacturing, construction and agriculture industries have also been shown to be at high risk for chronic disease.

In addition to the individual health benefits, businesses that value workplace health have been shown to benefit through improved worker morale, productivity, staff attraction and retention, and corporate image. In the longer term, reductions in absenteeism as well as workplace injuries and claims could also be achieved.

About Get Healthy at Work
Developed by WorkCover NSW in partnership with NSW Health, Get Healthy at Work gives businesses access to an accredited workplace health provider who can help set some health goals, supported by a simple action plan tailored to the needs of the business and its workers. Alternatively, businesses can choose to develop their action plan independently using Get Healthy at Work’s interactive training tutorials and easy-to-use resources, tools and templates to guide them every step of the way.

As part of the service, workers at participating businesses are offered a free and confidential 15-minute health check to assess their risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. At-risk individuals are then provided with advice and referrals to set them on the path to better health. The health check can be completed online or with an onsite health practitioner during work hours.

Visit the website to learn more about the service and register to participate or call WorkCover NSW on 13 10 50.

*Analysis by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2010 using results from the National Health Survey, combined with industry data sourced from occupational health and safety bodies across Australia.

Case study: improving safety policies and procedures

Ausam Terminals (AT) is a multi-user facility provider to the stevedoring industry and operates terminals in the majority of Australian ports. Its 44-hectare Port Kembla terminal caters for unloading and loading a range of goods, including motor vehicles and general cargo. There are about 80 truck movements in and out of the facility every day.

Macarthur Transport has a contract with AT that allows it to access the Port Kembla facilities.

What is the problem?
Macarthur hired a sub-contractor, Robb Transport Pty Ltd, to collect general cargo from the Port Kembla terminal and deliver it to a client in Melbourne. The cargo was stored on pallets and required a forklift to load the flat-bed truck. To assist the forklift operator, the truck driver climbed onto the tray to shift the cargo into position. When moving around the tray, the driver stepped backward and fell more than a metre to the ground, injuring his back and elbow.

A number of factors contributed to the incident, notably:

  • Fall protection was not available on the truck
  • workplace policies at the depot were not observed, such as ‘no climbing on loads’
  • no restrictions placed on drivers’ movements during loading/unloading
  • appropriate equipment not available to access the flatbed of the truck
  • poor communication between AT, Macarthur and Robb about the delivery of the load.

What was done to solve the problem?
In response to the incident, AT:

  • Reviewed their policies about climbing on loads during loading/unloading
  • changed their loading/unloading procedures
  • introduced site inductions for contractors
  • forbid contractors from accessing trailers and flat-beds during loading/unloading
  • trialled mobile stands to access trucks and loads
  • provided fall restraint equipment.

AT also highlighted the issue of falls from height at their 2013 transport forum, provided a site tour for attendees and demonstrated their new loading/unloading procedures.

Macarthur Transport introduced a ‘golden rules’ policy that forbids drivers from accessing their trailers and flat-beds when loading/unloading is taking place. They also updated their inductions for contract drivers.

Robb Transport, in consultation with their insurer, developed a return to work plan for their injured worker, who returned to work one month after the incident. They also developed a new risk assessment for drivers when working at heights with loads.

Business benefits
The benefit to the business in terms of fewer injuries and better control of the risk of falls will be determined in due course.

The average cost of a workers compensation claim in this industry is $3500. It also costs a business at least 10 times the cost of the claim in lost productivity, property damage, replacement costs and working days lost. The cost of the injury may have been in the order of $35,000 for at least one of the three businesses.

Key outcomes
Improved contractor induction and changes to policies and procedures around loading/unloading and working at heights will improve safety for drivers and other workers at the AT facility.

Mobile access platforms have been introduced, along with improved traffic management arrangements, safety zones for drivers, man boxes for forklifts, and elevated work platforms. These improvements will flow on to other AT facilities.

The contractor, Macarthur Transport, now has a stronger focus on safety arrangements in its contracts with AT.

Further information
For more information about workplace health and safety in the road freight transport industry, call 13 10 50 or visit the road freight transport section of our website.

Plan a fuss-free build with these video tips

Did you know that the rate of serious injury claims in the housing construction industry is higher than any other industry?

In fact, 60 per cent of all housing construction injury claims are considered major, in comparison to the NSW average of 35 per cent.

Good planning and scheduling can address some of the main types of hazards:

  • muscular stress – which can result from lifting or handling bulky and awkward objects
  • tripping or falling over – while moving materials around on site
  • falling from heights – due to unprotected edges or stairwell voids
  • exposure to the sun – due to a lack of awareness around long term effects of exposure.

You can save time, money and injuries with a few expert tips:

Plan when and how materials will be delivered so you know what work is happening onsite when the delivery is scheduled to occur and who will be onsite to receive it. By making a calendar of deliveries you will know what equipment will be required to assist with the movement of materials. You can also train workers ahead of time to learn how to move material safely.

Consider planning and costing hired mechanical equipment, such as cranes or other lifting devices. The money outlaid on a crane or lifting device can be offset by workers spending less time moving loads, leaving labour free for productive tasks. A crane that lifts trusses for a two storey house may save a whole day’s worth of labour and a lot of back pain.

Forward planning and scheduling jobs can help predict when you will have an unprotected stair well void or exposed edges. You can then implement safety controls such as void or edge protection. The internet has plenty of scheduling tools you can adapt to suit the needs of the job.

To avoid excessive sun exposure, schedule tasks for the cooler parts of the day, rotate tasks between exposed workers, work on the shaded side of the building where possible and make shade available for break times. Consider natural shaded areas, canvass, shade cloths, or portable gazebos.

Safety does not have to compromise productivity. With good planning, both small and large businesses can increase productivity and prevent injuries.

Watch the time lapse video to see how quickly and safely this house comes together through good planning.