Great leadership results in Health and Safety award scoop!
The ‘no. 8 wire’ and ‘she’ll be right mate’ mentality defines New Zealanders like nothing else, and it is a reputation of which most of us are extremely proud. But when it comes to a construction worksite, this mantra has no place and the challenge is not simply one of compliance but rather changing attitudes in order to change behaviour.
As a company, Arrow has invested significantly in the development of best practice in Health and Safety. CEO Mark Hopwood says the company has elevated Health and Safety to a strategic business priority in recent years.
“Our absolute first priority as a construction company is to ensure that every person working on one of Arrow’s sites goes home safely to their families at the end of each and every working day. And that requires rigorous and continued focus at all levels of the organisation to improve the way we do things based on critical risk.’” says Hopwood. “Our ultimate aim is to achieve zero harm on all our projects.”
Arrow is an active member of the Canterbury Leaders Safety Group, and a signatory of the Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter.
Arrow International (NZ) Ltd South Island Health, Safety and Environment Manager, Jamie Miller, is on a single-minded mission to do just that. Miller, a recent import into Arrow from the UK, says New Zealand is well behind other first world countries when it comes to living and breathing health and safety. From Miller’s perspective, there’s a lot of lip service afforded to health and safety in New Zealand and the focus is on ticking boxes alone.
“If you’re going to affect meaningful change then you have to weave Health and Safety right through the planning phase of a project and demonstrate how and not just what. One incident is simply one too many in my book.”
“Health and Safety is about leadership. Leadership is all about the very practical things you can do in order to embed Health and Safety in every aspect of your business. And in construction, if you get the leadership right you can achieve fantastic Health and Safety performance”, adds Miller. “And leadership, well that’s all about engagement.”
Consultants the world over will give you all sorts of strategies to achieve greater workplace engagement but in the case of Health and Safety Miller believes engagement starts with building relationships and recognising good behaviour as well as poor behaviour.
“You have to sell safety … you can’t just tell it if you really want long term change in behaviours. We are always quick to act on poor behaviour but recognition of positive Health and Safety acts gets left behind.”
Miller joined Arrow from the UK-based corporate LendLease, one of the world’s leading project management and construction companies. LendLease are globally recognised for their strong commitment to Health and Safety. Its incident and injury free record is testimony to this commitment.
“If we as individuals are committed to operating in an incident and injury free environment then healthy and safety has to be put first and never compromised on. Without compromise means individuals need to be accountable and exercise integrity in moments of truth. And then, every incident will be preventable. We need to be looking out for each other.”
So with such clear leadership it’s no surprise that Arrow scooped five awards at the inaugural Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter Champion Awards last year. Arrow’s Brent Cochran, Monica Rietveld, Jason Thornley, Ron Harman and Chris Prankard collected five of the thirteen awards. Each and every one of these five talk passionately about the importance of changing behaviour through acknowledgement and recognition of doing. Award winner, Jason Thornley, says the key to integrating Health and Safety into our mindset is to understand that it’s actually all about looking after your teammates on-site and not about form filling.
“There are many conflicting pressures on a construction site”, says Thornley. “There’s the pressure to do things faster to complete a job on or ahead of schedule but without compromising quality. And then there’s the pressure of complying with Health and Safety requirements.”
Often Health and Safety is seen as a cost and something that slows down progress so it’s open for short cuts to be taken. You have to sit down with these guys on site and talk it through with them, giving practical examples of what, why and what if. And then reward the desired behaviour when you see it.”
For Thornley, recognition is as simple as a WorkSafe ‘good one mate’ card and a bar of chocolate.
“I’ve been blown away by what it means to my guys to be acknowledged for the desired behaviours. And guess what?” asks Thornley. “Their attitude toward Health and Safety is changing from one of a nuisance factor to one of keeping the guys safe.”
Miller sees each and every one of these individuals as game changers in the way New Zealand does Health and Safety.
“These guys are driving systems at the coalface. They’re taken ownership of the issue and truly have the bit between their teeth.”
He admits that New Zealand has a long way to go to mirror the best of the best internationally but change is gathering momentum and Christchurch has served as a great incubator for effecting that change.
“People will look back at the first five years of the Christchurch Rebuild and realise what a game-changer it was for Health and Safety in this country”, says Miller. “The legacy will be the systems and how to go about the practical doing of health and safety.”
And it’ll be because of people like this team spreading the Health and Safety ‘germ’ that noticeable change will happen. Incidents will go down significantly and most importantly, contractors and subbies will replace the “she’ll be right mate” retort with “good one mate”.