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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters



Safeguard Magazine

For the greater good

The 2018 award for leadership went to an initiative in which business competitors are working collaboratively to drive sector-wide H&S best practice. JACKIE BROWN-HAYSOM reports.

Electricity generation and transmission is a high stakes industry where small failures can have big health and safety consequences.

Against this unforgiving backdrop the sector has always had what Meridian Energy’s strategic asset manager Richard Griffiths describes as “pockets of excellence” – programmes and initiatives developed by individual organisations or sites, that have raised the bar in relation to specific hazards and risks.

In 2011 the general managers of the industry’s five biggest players – Contact, Genesis, Meridian, Mercury and Trustpower – decided this wasn’t good enough.

“They recognised there would be benefits if their organisations were to share health and safety information and collectively establish best practice procedures that could be used consistently across the industry,” Griffiths says. “They saw this as the way to ultimately boost health and safety performance right across the sector.”

The result was StayLive, an alliance that brought together operational managers and H&S professionals from each of the big companies, mandating them to meet every six weeks and share not only their good ideas but also their problems – incidents, near misses, and whatever other issues they were currently struggling with.

KEY ENABLER

It was a bold move in a sector known for fierce competition, but the organisations went even further, giving their representatives authority to implement whatever solutions and strategies emerged from their joint discussions, without the need for CEO sign-off.

Some seven years down the track, Griffiths – an inaugural member and current chair of StayLive – says this mandate has been critical to the group’s success, as the need to achieve industry-wide consistency sometimes requires member organisations to change long established procedures.

“It’s been a real enabler, to have the executive team say: “You guys are the experts. You work it out, and if you come up with an agreed approach, just do it.”

“It’s really made a difference.”

He points to the introduction of StayLive’s industry work control procedures as an example. The aim, he explains, was to create a consistent, repeatable process for the safe management of site work that would eliminate confusion for multi-site contractors and enable smaller companies to easily adopt improved work control methods.

“We needed to get consistency in every aspect, right down to the sort of signage being used, and without the authority to implement best practice quickly and efficiently, it would not have been possible to achieve this.”

MORE MEMBERS

In recent years membership of StayLive has swelled, with Pioneer Energy, Transpower and the Electricity Engineers’ Association now full members, and five smaller organisations – Eastland Generation, Nova, Ngati Tuwharetoa Geothermal, Top Energy, and Australian company Tilt Renewables – on board as associates.

This split membership structure is all about inclusivity, Griffiths says.

“It gives the smaller generators, who don’t have the same level of funding, the chance to participate without having to contribute a lot of resources.

“Associate members get all the same benefits – access to information, involvement in working groups and so on – without having to commit so much time and effort.”

The benefits go both ways, however, with the differing industry experiences, insights and contacts of the smaller players adding to the collective pool of knowledge at the heart of the group’s success.

“Individually none of us have all the answers, so our strength lies in the healthy discussions we have, and the openness with which we are able to share and challenge one another.

“We remain fiercely competitive from an energy retailing perspective, but we collaborate openly around health and safety, often talking about our own incidents or near misses, and sharing what we’ve learnt.”

NEW GUIDELINES

When the group identifies an issue where safety guidelines seem to be needed, a StayLive member is chosen to head a working group, and he or she assembles a team, usually involving expertise from within member organisations, to develop appropriate – and user-friendly – guidance material.

“In October we completed guidelines on critical risks,” Griffiths says. “There is a lot of information around risk management, and you can quickly get to a level of complexity, but the aim of this guideline was to simplify it, and make it real.”

The guideline focuses on nine key sector risks, ranging from driving – an important issue for organisations operating major facilities in remote locations – to mental health.

“It’s a simple format, with a single page for each topic.

“The guide outlines what the risk is, the situations where it could occur, and the key controls, then has a list of critical questions you need to ask yourself and your team before work kicks off.”

The questions deal with things like training and competency, correct use of equipment and PPE, external conditions, communication, and job planning. Beyond these details, however, they serve to focus attention on the work in hand, and the potential for things to go wrong.

“You can have all the processes, procedures and training you like around managing risk, but at the end of the day it’s the state of mind of the person who’s there, and what they’re focused on, that makes the biggest difference,” Griffiths says. “Targeted key questions help keep people tuned into the risk, rather than depending on a whole lot of paper-based processes.”

To date the group has formulated new industry guidelines in relation to seven key issues, including lone work, contractor prequalification, confined space, and operator training. Another six projects are in progress – including an industry-specific online training initiative, simplified site entry criteria, and an ambitious digital system for maintaining and accessing competency and training records.

A recent pilot of this programme – involving staff from Mercury, Meridian and three major industry contractors – was successful, and Griffiths expects the new tool to go live within months.

“The beauty of StayLive is you haven’t got one organisation taking all the risks and trying to foot the entire cost of things like this,” he says. “You have a collective approach, and a collective commitment to making it work.”

Like all StayLive initiatives, access to the new system will not be restricted to group members, and there are hopes it will eventually be adopted by the entire electricity supply industry.

NOT COMPETING IN H&S

It’s an objective aligned to the group’s founding principles – that there should be no competitive advantage in health and safety, and that resources and information should be shared with anyone, within or outside the sector, who might benefit from them.

“We all put time and effort into developing our resources and guidelines, but everything we do is intended to be transferrable to other organisations and industries,” Griffiths says.

Indeed, information sharing is one of the key functions of the StayLive website, which not only provides free public access to all completed guidelines, details of work in progress, and a library of safety alerts, but even charts the total recordable injury frequency rates for the group’s key stakeholders.

It’s an easy openness Griffiths believes other organisations should embrace.

“We’re open to anybody becoming a member – and we’re not limited to generation companies either.

“We’d love the lines companies to get involved, and have been in discussion with the network distribution companies as well, because we’re all dealing with the same issues.”

However, if other industry groups prefer to create their own alliances rather than join StayLive, Griffiths has an unusual, but heartfelt, invitation for them: “We’ve done a whole lot of work here – just use it. Adapt it as you see fit.

“We’d love you to plagiarise what we’ve done, for your own benefit.”

JACKIE BROWN-HAYSOM

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