Two of a kind

Brendan Edwards, a mechanical fitter at Komatsu, and Bill Coulter, a self-confessed dreamer and problem solver, are two of a kind. Both are passionate about workplace safety and, fittingly, both were finalists in the 2017 SafeWork NSW Awards.

Brendan has initiated myriad safety solutions at the Moss Vale manufacturing facility where he works.

According to Hicham Merhil, Brendan’s supervisor, ‘he has never met an individual that is as hands-on about health and safety as Brendan.’

He has been responsible for introducing anti-slip grip tape on steps and anti-slip floor plates at machines; installing safety solutions for gas cylinders and shelves to reduce manual handling; streamlining traffic management systems and ensuring compliance with personal protective equipment; and on and on it goes.

Brendan generally makes about eight safety observations every month, identifying improved work processes and discussing changes with his co-workers.

Bill Coulter, on the other hand, has retired from a long career in sawmilling and logging, yet he was determined to find a safer way for tree workers to work at heights and avoid manual handling injuries.

After much research, information-gathering and stargazing, Bill bought a truck and crane, a hydraulic grapple and a cutting attachment – and called it ‘Safe Treez’. Using a remote control, it removed trees in less than half the time taken using traditional methods, eliminated the need to work at heights and significantly reduced the amount of manual handling.

If you’re one of a kind, enter the 2018 SafeWork NSW Awards.

Excellence in recovery at work

When a company experiences a 41 per cent fall in workers compensation premiums and a 45 per cent fall in their average cost of claims, people take notice.

The panel on the 2017 SafeWork Awards certainly took notice.The company now boasts the 2017 award for excellence in recovery at work for business.

Specialty Fashion Group, the largest specialty retailer of women’s fashion in Australasia – represented by brands such as Millers, Crossroads and Katies – has over 1200 stores throughout Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. And it has invested heavily in developing an integrated revover@work program.

The program is built on the motto ‘a little happier, a little healthier, each day’. It includes a dedicated return to work team, surveys on how the program is working, 24/7 access to a medical advice hotline and, most importantly, financial commitment to the program from the board and CEO.

Surveys reveal that more than 90 per cent of the workforce love the program.

Register now for the 2018 awards.

Changing age-old traditions for a safer workplace

For many businesses, manual tasks are an important part of getting the job done.

Not surprisingly, those who work at cemeteries do numerous hazardous manual tasks and are often prone to serious injuries.John Pearce is one of those people. As an employee of Coffs Harbour City Council, John worked at the local cemetery and was concerned about the damage he and others were doing to their backs when lowering coffins into graves.

Despite the generations-old method of lowering coffins, John was determined to find a safer alternative. After extensive consultation with council colleagues and funeral parlours, he designed and built a trolley on an A-frame to transport a coffin-lowering device behind a ride-on mower or small tractor.

John’s invention reduces manual handling activities by about 90 per cent and minimises trip hazards around the grave. It eliminates the need to lift the 52-kg coffin-lowering device on and off the frame and eliminates the need to push the 300-kg trailer.

Following John’s innovative creation, the council now actively encourages all staff to be proactive and provide suggestions on improving health and safety outcomes.

Fittingly, John was a stand-out winner at the 2017 SafeWork Awards for best individual contribution to workplace health and safety.

Register now for the 2018 awards.

web - Wrap - JOHN PEARCE

Jason’s story: A young life lost

Jason Garrels was just 20 years old when he died at a construction site in 2012. He had only been working there for nine days and his death was preventable.

In this video, produced by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Jason’s family and friends share their experiences to raise awareness about the importance of workplace safety, the need for effective communication between subcontractors on construction sites, and appropriate supervision and supportive mentoring for young workers.

It also brings to attention the importance of housekeeping in preventing incidents, and allowing emergency access to sites if an incident does occur.

Statistics show how vulnerable children and young people are in the workplace. They can be oblivious to hazards in their surroundings, are often unaware of their rights and responsibilities, and may not be confident to speak up about safety concerns.

On 28 April each year, countries around the world pause to commemorate workers who have died as a result of a workplace incident or occupational disease.

Each year, Unions NSW and SafeWork NSW hold a service on the day to honour and remember those who lost their life at work.

At the service, families are invited to add ‘memory cards’ and flowers to the Memory Lines sculpture in honour of their loved ones.

We encourage employers and workers across the state to take time on International Day of Mourning to think about the significance of work health and safety and how workplace incidents can affect those around them.

For more information about young workers, visit our website.

Get it right: ask an inspector

Based in St. Mary’s, Enviro Pallets manufactures timber pallets. It’s a small business, with just six full time workers – plus a handful of labour hire workers from Ability Options, an agency that supports people with disabilities.

Manufacturing pallets is a high risk industry and, following a request for service, a SafeWork inspector visited the premises and met with Mark Duffin, the factory manager, to offer some health and safety advice.

‘The workplace had a number of safety hazards,’ said Cris Jelley, Assistant State Inspector.

‘These included issues relating to poor housekeeping, machine guarding, traffic management, forklift safety, and handling and storage of hazardous chemicals.’

‘I issued numerous improvement notices,’ said Mr Jelley.

Regardless the severity of the notices, Mr Duffin saw it as a wake-up call and, over the next three months, he encouraged and welcomed further interactions with Mr Jelley.

Mr Duffin organised a massive clean-up of the workplace, fixed his chemical issues, fitted and improved guarding on machinery, improved traffic management, made walkways for pedestrians, issued personal protective equipment to everyone and, most importantly, sought his workers’ input on safety improvements.

‘The improvements have made my business safer and more productive,’ said Mr Duffin.

‘I have realised through your help, Cris, that it is more beneficial to be proactive than reactive, and I thank you for that – never too old to learn.’

An inspiration to us all

David Nugent owns a cattle farm near Wagga Wagga and does some contract work supplying hay and operating heavy machinery to supplement his income when times are tough.

Twenty years ago, David was seriously injured when his arms became caught in a hay baler as he was trying to fix a fault. As the baler pulled his arms in with such force, he suffered chest and head injuries along with extensive injuries to both arms. He was trapped for more than an hour before being rescued by a passing motorist and rushed to hospital.

David spent five months in hospital, had his right arm amputated above the elbow and numerous surgeries to save the left arm, including orthopaedic reconstruction, skin grafting, vascular grafting and infection control.

David knew nothing other than farming and was widely known in his community for solving problems and finding solutions. And this horrific tragedy did not deter him. His motto: the farm will not beat me.

With the help of a rehabilitation provider, prosthetic technician, case manager, family and friends, he developed a comprehensive return to work program and purchased modified equipment through SIRA’s vocational rehabilitation program. He made changes to the farm set-up, re-designed his work practices, and researched widely to find equipment that would satisfy his needs.

David credits a determined, problem-solving attitude and a great team as the principal reasons for his remarkable achievements.

Although the incident happened 20 years ago, David continues to receive medical treatment for his injuries but has returned to his pre-injury duties as a self-employed cattle farmer, hay contractor, bob-cat operator and earth mover.

David’s achievements were recognised last year when he won the 2017 SafeWork NSW Award for Recovery at Work Achievement Award for Injured Workers.

Register today for the 2018 SafeWork NSW Awards.


Consultation is key at IOH

Getting an injured worker back to work can be tricky, with a whole range of people involved such as doctors, employers, treatment providers and the worker.

Often at the centre of that is the Rehabilitation Consultant, supporting everyone involved and making sure everyone is kept well informed.

It’s a high pressure job with the potential for stress, as emotions run high and priorities compete with one another.

So it’s absolutely vital that the health and safety of the Rehabilitation Consultant is taken care of.

IOH Area Manager Paula Cormack is responsible for doing just that. IOH is a rehabilitation services provider, and Paula is responsible for managing seven Rehabilitation Consultants who work from Liverpool to Goulburn.

“There can be a high stress element to the role of a Rehabilitation Consultant, because there’s a lot of different people involved with a lot of different agendas that they have to deal with, Paula said.

“Although the risks to the Rehabilitation Consultations aren’t overwhelmingly physical, there’s huge potential for stress.”

The best way to deal with this, she said, comes down to good workplace consultation.

“Using formal and informal forms of consultation allows the Rehabilitations Consultants to share their stories helps us to identify problems, and then tackle them,” Paula said.

Given the large geographical area that the Rehabilitation Consultants have to cover, Paula said she and her team have relied on technology to do this.

They use a program called Slack – an online tool that allows them to share messages in real time, hold video chats, and upload documents to share.

“My guys share information every day. Whether it be something interesting they’ve read that might help with their role, or information that others might need to know about a site that they’ve just been to. The beauty about it is that it’s in real time, and it’s versatile” Paula said.

“I guess what we’re trying to do is to create an environment where we don’t have to think about it too much, so it’s just seamless and it becomes second nature to talk about things that relate to their health and safety.”

They combine this with more formal workplace consultation methods, such as one-on-one meetings every fortnight, monthly team meetings; and a keeping a Register of Injuries, where any workplace injuries – no matter how minor – are formally recorded.

“All of these things provide a really great environment where everyone can feel relaxed and confident enough to raise issues and discuss safety concerns, because at the end of the day we want to tackle potential injuries before they happen,” Paula said.

“From there, the benefits to our business just flow. We have a happier workforce, lower injury rates and incidents, and a more productive business.”

If you would like more information on how to establish good workplace consultation methods, visit our website or call 13 10 50.

If you’re a small business operator, you can also request a free workplace advisory visit. By doing so, you could be eligible for a small business rebate of up to $500.