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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters


Beyond words

JACKIE BROWN-HAYSOM tells how a simple slogan became the inspiration for an award-winning health and safety engagement programme.

How do you turn six words into a culture-changing health and safety strategy?

That was the question facing Andy Cook when he joined Frucor Beverages as its NZ health and safety manager.

An external consultant had developed a catchy slogan –“See it, Sort it, Safe as” – and the company wanted to use it to boost staff engagement in workplace safety.

“I loved the words – they’re really Kiwi, and a great fit with our organisation,” Cook says. “But it was only words. An amazing tagline and a vision isn’t enough – we had to find a way to help our people connect with it.”

At the time, he says, the company’s health and safety culture lacked consistency. Although there had been no serious incidents, minor accidents were fairly common and, with health and safety tending to be reactive or compliance-driven, it was clear something special was needed if the tagline was to become more than a static internal brand.

Eighteen months later Cook and his colleague, national health and safety advisor Cheryl Hill, can’t stop talking about how things have changed – not just in terms of the statistics and measurables, but, more importantly, in the way people at all levels in the organisation have taken ownership of health and safety.

It’s the result of an innovative communications strategy, masterminded by the H&S team, which used emotional appeals to make health and safety personal for everyone in the organisation – and went on to make Frucor a winner in the engagement category at this year’s NZ Workplace Health & Safety Awards.

WHAT REALLY MATTERS?

Based in South Auckland, the company operates in both New Zealand and Australia, employing around 1000 people and producing some 20 million cases of drinks a year.

Its workforce is ethnically diverse, and includes many for whom English is not their first language.

At the heart of the business is a strong people focus and a values-driven culture, but when Cook arrived in 2014 he could see this was not being effectively translated into its health and safety practices. As much as he liked the snappy slogan that had been selected, he knew it would be wasted words unless he could make it relevant.

“When I started doing health and safety [with a previous employer] everything was driven by compliance, and I didn’t really connect with why I had to comply,” he says. “So when I came here I knew that if we wanted people to engage with our vision, the first thing we had to do was answer the ‘why?’ question.”

With Hill he organised and facilitated a series of workshops at each of the company’s three New Zealand sites, inviting staff from different work areas and levels of seniority.

“We asked everyone the same questions – about what they valued, what health and safety meant to them in the context of those things, how they understood ‘see it’ and ‘sort it’, and what it would mean to be ‘safe as’.”

When responses from the workshops were collated the message was very clear – family and community were what mattered most, and being healthy and safe at work was what allowed them to get home to these families and communities at the end of the day.

Alongside this finding three other themes emerged – the need to take personal responsibility for safety, to look after workmates, and a shared expectation that problems would be fixed. The tagline was tailored to incorporate these ideas and matched to a smart thumbs-up logo, ready for its official launch to 650 Auckland staff at the annual business conference in February 2015.

ONE CHANCE TO CONVINCE

Cook and Hill knew they had to get this right, and assembled a presentation team of four frontline workers, two senior managers, and two middle managers, all of whom had been involved with the workshops. The brief was to devise a presentation that would have an impact on staff from every level of the organisation, and show the benefits of embracing the See it, Sort it, Safe as message.

The finished product – filmed on a phone and put together for a total budget of $11 – turned out to be a show-stealer, voted not just the best presentation of the 2015 conference, but the best from any of the company’s conferences, ever.

It began with a short drama, showing Cook knocking on a worker’s door to deliver news of a serious workplace accident to his wife and young child, then cut to a photo montage of people from all levels in the organisation going about their work.

“We wanted to create the feeling that this is the reality if we get health and safety wrong, and that it could be any one of your families that gets that knock on the door.

“It was pretty hard-hitting, and some of the conference organisers and leadership team had reservations, but collectively we decided it was the right message to set up the launch.”

Following the video, team members spoke about See it, Sort it, Safe as, showing the new logo and explaining what it meant.

“That’s where the gold came from – by doing those engagement workshops beforehand we were telling our audience what they’d previously told us.”

A second video used photos from a staff competition, in which workers had been asked to send in pictures of things that were important to them.

“We’d been inundated! We had people camping, riding motorbikes, playing with their kids, leading Girl Guides, coaching soccer – all those things that mean community to our people.”

By the time the video ended and the team began explaining how individuals can influence H&S by taking personal responsibility, some people were starting to tear up.

“That was the turning point in engaging with our workforce,” Cook says. “We told them, if you’re injured at Frucor we’ll definitely look after you and, as far as possible, your family – but what we can’t do is coach the team or spend time with the kids.”

Next up was a discussion about the practicalities of “Sort it”, and a video, showing before and after pictures of hazards that had been successfully sorted.

“We wanted to show how easy it can be, but we also talked about what to do with things that may be out of your realm, explaining you can still play a part by escalating the matter to your manager, and following up if it isn’t actioned.”

In a final video to illustrate the “Safe as” aspect, the door knocking scene was repeated, but this time the worker was with his wife and child at the door, safe, well, and enjoying family life.

“It was a powerful presentation, developed and delivered by our people – and in the entire presentation we didn’t once mention legislation or compliance.”

HUGE IMPACT

There was no doubt that the message was received, with workers from all business areas queuing afterwards to sign four large banners pledging commitment to See it, Sort it, Safe as. But it was in the weeks that followed that the real impact became apparent.

“Before the conference people had been reluctant to become health and safety reps, but post-conference we were inundated. People were passionate about being part of the journey.

“Our health and safety committees became really strong, and the increase in hazard reporting was huge, with people taking greater responsibility for fixing things themselves.”

Over the subsequent 18 months these benefits haven’t tailed off, with the result that the company’s TRIFR is now half its pre-conference level.

For Cook and Hill, however, the most exciting thing is the way workers are now seeking their own solutions to H&S issues.

When a logistics team identified gaps in its height safety practices, it liaised with Cook to arrange specialised working at heights training, while a woman from the factory floor (opposite) has produced pictorial hazard maps and SOPs, so those with limited English can readily access safety information.

Frucor’s delivery drivers – all independent contractors – have got in on the act as well. They liked what they saw at the plant, and asked Cook to run a workshop to help them develop their own policies and procedures.

TRANSCENDING BOUNDARIES

Group operations manager Chris Kane says the changes in attitude have been “massive”.

“Everyone ‘gets’ safety now and is passionate about it,” he says. “See it, Sort it, Safe as has given us a framework within which to work. It’s made safety less of a compliance issue, and more of a good way to do things.”

The behavioural changes transcend the usual boundaries between white and blue collar workers and different work areas, he says, and give everyone the confidence to challenge unsafe practices.

“People always felt a bit diffident if they saw their mate dong something a bit tricky, but this has been a great leveller. I’ve personally been pulled up for not wearing safety shoes, and it’s great that people have the courage to do that.

“I’ve been in organisations where you drive compliance and get some good results, but when you walk away, it falls over. What we’re doing here is sustainable, building a behaviour base that we can work on.”

For their part Cook and Hill know the journey is far from over, and are planning new workshops to get more feedback from their people.

“But in the end, we’re just custodians,” Cook says. “It’s our job to keep momentum going and steer in the right direction, but it’s the workforce that owns the programme.”

Get the picture?

JACKIE BROWN-HAYSOM talks to a Frucor worker with some novel safety solutions.

Sulia Ngungutau’s colleagues on Frucor’s Xenos line still like to joke that they’ll get the jandal if they don’t report a hazard.

It was an off-the-cuff line from Ngungutau as a co-presenter during the See it, Sort it, Safe as launch, but it struck a chord with her workmates. She giggles at the memory, but is still wide-eyed at the thought of being a conference presenter.

“I’ve been here five years and this was the first time people from the manufacturing team got invited to present,” she says. “It was my biggest achievement as a health and safety rep to be part of that presentation.”

For Cook and Hill, however, it is another of her achievements that has them most excited. As a senior packing operator and trainer of trainers she was concerned that for the majority of her co-workers English was a second language, making H&S information hard to understand.

“As a trainer I needed a way to deliver my message without confusing them,” she says. “I decided if I used pictures of the hazards and put them on a map of the packing hall it would be there for everyone to see.”

She invited everyone to help her compile a comprehensive list of hazards, then set about mapping them, using pictures and symbols to show the nature of hazards, and their location within the work area.

The finished poster now takes pride of place beside the packing hall entrance, where it serves as an induction tool for both new staff and visitors.

“Because it’s very visual it is a constant reminder,” Ngungutau says. “And when we get new hazards we update the map to show them too.

“It’s good because everybody gets to see the hazards they’ve identified up there on the board.”

Safe operating procedures have also come in for attention, with Ngungutau producing a series of pictorial guides, using photographs to show each step of the processes.

“I’ve got a 72-year-old man on my shift and I use him for all our SOPs. People say: ‘Why do you use him? He’s too old’, but that’s my main point. If he’s 72 and can still do the job, I don’t see why anyone else can’t.”

Would she have had the motivation to do this without the See it, Sort it, Safe as campaign?

“No, I’d probably have been like everybody else was – ‘Waste of time. Don’t want to go there’. What’s changed for me is the excitement about the message, and the support I’m getting from management.”

As one of the presentation team she was thrilled to be offered a seat at the company table for the Safeguard awards.

“That was an experience I’ll never forget. They took us all in a limo, and when we won Andy [Cook] got me to say something. Imagine, speaking up in front of all those people! But we’ve put up a challenge too – Supreme Award, here we come for next year!”

JACKIE BROWN-HAYSOM

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