Building a good safety culture in the workplace

Most of us would like to think no-one was harmed in the brewing of our favourite beer. That’s something to which Stone & Wood Brewing Co can attest, thanks to its emphasis on workplace safety at its northern NSW facilities.

Head of Production Richard Crowe explains its focus on safety was initially driven by a shift in the craft brewer’s organisational culture three years ago.

“We put safety at the heart of everything we do. We have seen a substantial rise in safety awareness, particularly through reports of hazards and near-misses, and have realised an 80 per cent drop in incident rates at our Byron Bay and Murwillumbah breweries,” Crowe says.

At the start of Stone & Wood’s new approach to safety, staff were encouraged to share their stories of what works in the business to help keep everyone safe, as well as any potential accidents and how they were avoided.

In keeping with the inclusive nature of the Byron region, the business also places a value on mateship and keeping everyone in the business safe. “Our safety mantra is, ‘Think. Do. Share.’,” Crowe says.

These may be simple words but they carry real significance. “Think” is about pausing to consider the safety aspects of any activity before undertaking it. “Do” is about acting in a safe manner and, at the same time, considering the impact of your actions on your peers. “Share” is about talking through safety and reporting any potential issues before they cause an accident.

As a result of this mantra, the business has tweaked production processes to make them safer and changed the way plant and equipment are configured to enhance safety. Behaviours across the workforce have also changed so that people are acting in a more mindful way to reduce the risk of accidents.

Importantly, everyone at Stone & Wood is encouraged to stop work if something looks like it may cause a safety issue, rather than carrying on and saying nothing. “We always say, ‘safety first, product quality second and productivity third’. It’s a simple prioritisation that we use when making day-to-day decisions. Our staff are committed to keeping everyone in the team safe. It’s real evidence of a step-change in the way we approach safety here at Stone & Wood,” he adds.

The business also has regular safety awards to recognise people who are taking positive steps to ensure everyone’s safety, and also conducts regular training to support its safety initiatives. It’s also introducing a comprehensive wellbeing program to back up its safety initiatives.

Jennifer Cameron, icare injury prevention manager, says building a safety culture is all about developing the right attitudes and values to support that. “It’s about good leadership and communication and it’s often the simple things that work.”

A good example is Stone & Wood’s approach to communication. The business sends out regular “epic safety share” emails to endorse the actions of team members who do the right thing, contributing to the team’s safety culture.

“When we talk about workplace safety, people often use the stick approach. But it can be just as effective to use a carrot and talk about what went well, which is what happens at Stone & Wood,” Cameron explains.

She says Stone & Wood’s bottom up approach to encouraging everyone to speak up about safety is also instrumental in helping facilitate a safe culture in the business. “It’s quite different to the traditional, hierarchical workplace, where if you’re not a supervisor or leader, you’re not allowed to put your hand up. That’s a really positive change,” Cameron says.

Additionally, she says organisations are getting better at understanding what the business’s purpose and vision means for workplace safety and the role individuals play in that. “That’s really important,” Cameron says.

From an industry perspective, icare NSW’s data from 2018 shows manufacturing, construction and health and community services are the sectors that experience the highest volume of claims in which poor workplace safety is a contributing factor. But when examined deeper, it’s clear that psychological injuries are more likely in the health and community sector, with body stressing injuries more common in construction due to its physical nature.

To help reduce workplace injuries, it’s important for businesses to consider the unique risks for their enterprise, the organisational culture and how risks are managed – and to make sure staff are engaged along the way. “Asking your team to identify the key challenges and seeking their input to solutions will produce a much better safety culture than dictating workplace safety,” Cameron explains.

“Organisations that do this have a more effective defence against injury and illness. But it’s not just about having a policy; it’s about having it documented in a way the workforce can understand. English is a second language in many of the sectors that experience high rates of workplace injuries and literacy may also be an issue. So it’s about how you engage with people to help them understand what they need to do to perform a task safely.

“Everyone in business needs to consider safety as important and be focused on ensuring everyone gets home at the end of their work day,” she adds.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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