Comcare’s Health & Safety Representative (HSR) of the Year for 2013 was awarded to Nathan East, a HSR with one of Australia’s largest rail freight businesses, Pacific National (PN). At just 25, Nathan represents a new generation in health and safety management, as well as a new way of communicating safety messages across generations and within his organisation. Prue Dunstan, SH&E Manager at PN’s Port Kembla site, joins us to discuss the organisation’s new generation of safety initiatives and the benefits of looking after your mates and working together on safety.
New initiatives, especially within large organisations such as Pacific National, are usually driven by top-down actions. Within this structure, what is the role of a Health and Safety representative and what was your drive to putting together the ‘Home Safely Everyday’ video?
Prue Dunstan: The health and safety representatives meet every month and follow the standard made by Pacific National. We track our own strategic safety plan that we make each year. This plan includes how we will support the company’s safety initiatives, as well as projects we’d like to do that are specific to this terminal. The plan helps us get support from management for new initiatives and focuses our work. We are a unique site here at Port Kembla, and have great management support, but we all work together on safety. There’s no us and them because it’s in all our interests.
The Home Safely program was actually started by Asciano and it really struck home to the Safety Reps at Port Kembla. We localised the message by making a video about the multitude of safe acts that go into making a safe shift for a rail crew at the steelworks. It’s very positive and upbeat and shows the boys actually working throughout. We didn’t use actors and shot and edited it ourselves. It’s quite raw and rough, not a glossy, shiny corporate video; the guys relate really well to it because it was made by us as Safety Reps, for the train crews and it’s all about them. Because the people in the video are also our mates, it brings the message home effectively. We never want to see our mate get hurt at work. At the end of the day we come to work because of all the other good things in our lives, so it’s important to stay safe so we can go home and enjoy them.
The video runs for about 5mins and depicts an average work day at PN’s Port Kembla site. What was the rationale for the format of the video, in particular, the activities depicted?
The video focuses on safe acts by showing our SHE reps working in the terminal, under normal circumstances. Nathan enjoys making surf videos in his spare time. He took this skill and the format he uses for shooting action video footage and applied it to his work as a shunter in the steelworks. Because we made the video for the train crews, we put a sample of all the shunts we do here at Port Kembla and in all the different places. This gave us a chance to highlight the hazards of each area visually and how we keep each other safe during a shift. Everything we do here is about team work, so we needed to focus on what we do together to get home safely everyday.
What have been some of outcomes of the video?
We have provided many copies to our workmates so they can not only show their families what they do at work, but also help them understand some of the hazards we work with. It helps triggering a discussion at home about things like getting enough sleep and staying healthy and how our families can support us to have a safe shift. We received so much positive feedback about the video because it looks at safety in a positive way and is genuine grass roots communication. We show it to all our new employees and they get an understanding not only of what the bosses expect, but what their work mates expect in terms of being safe. In this terminal (Port Kembla), safety is everything.
Can we expect any further initiatives and tools to stem from this?
The Safety Reps have made a series of 10 manual handling videos for tasks we do where we could get injured. They are used in the training and recertification of competencies that we do. They step through each of the tasks focusing on the safe way to do it. Once again we used our mates while they were working to star in each video and to bring the message home
What other practices and policies reinforce the safety messages highlighted in the video?
The safety committee have been very active here at Port Kembla and we are responsible now for many of the reviews of the various safety documentation like emergency plans and risk assessments. We recently did a review of the whole of Port Kembla, including the BlueScope Steel site and the various private sidings to make sure we have everything in place. We found a few gaps and we put together a plan to rectify these. Being on the safety committee carries a lot of responsibility, but management support us and we support them, because ultimately we all want the same thing. We often present at meetings and are an integral part of the terminal safety communications, safety consultations and a vital connection between management and crews.
The video focuses on the reasons we come to work; our families and why safety is so important. It’s about the decision to be safe and keep yourself and you mates safe.
Sharing information is a major contributor to improving safety. What advice would you share with other individuals or organisations looking to develop a similar initiative?
When we made the video we were keen to make the Corporate Home Safely program more meaningful to the crews and make it specific to Port Kembla. We kept the core message consistent but only used local people working in local places. I think because we are also from train crews and we understand the work, it gives us credibility with the audience. They relate to us. To develop any initiative like this, you need to first understand your audience and the best way to reach them. We used video because we hadn’t seen anything like this done before and we knew it would bring the Home Safely message home to our audience.
Click here to learn more PN’s approach to safety management.
Plus, PN’s Nathan East will highlight the challenges, outcomes and key achievements of this initiative as part of the industry achievements session at Rail Safety 2014 in Sydney this March.