A safer workplace starts with a good culture and Western Sydney-based Winston Express Haulage ('Winston Express') has experienced just that.
By switching to a proactive culture focused on strong communication and consultation, they've been able to implement several safety improvements, reducing their workplace injuries to zero in 2020.
They've achieved this through a combination of their own commitment to the safety of their work family and the support provided by icare and its partners Altius Group and Austbrokers AEI Transport through the Protect Together (P2) program.
Winston Express is a family-run trucking business of 30 years with approximately 50 employees. With their own fleet of 25 rigid trucks, 25 prime movers and 30 trailers (ranging from two-tonne utes through to semi-trailers) they specialise in general and express freight.
Addressing the challenges
The transport industry poses some unique safety challenges. According to Safe Work Australia data, 26 per cent of workplace fatalities in 2018 alone occurred in this industry.
Often overlooked is the additional risk to truck drivers resulting from hazardous manual handling and slips, trips or falls while securing loads. According to Safe Work Australia these incidents account for over 5,000 claims per year, while manual handling claims alone are estimated to cost the Australian economy $28 billion each year.
Mindful of these safety challenges, Winston Express set out to build a more proactive safety culture, starting with a commitment to improving the safety features of their fleet of 50 vehicles.
"While we've always had the safety of our drivers top of mind, prior to 2018 we had limited safety resources available internally and our Work Health & Safety (WHS) system needed improvement," said Winston Express Haulage owner and safety representative Rose Smith.
"Our injury claims were low but costly and often involved injuries resulting from loading and unloading of trucks. We knew we had to act quickly to ensure our workers go home safely everyday," she added.
Winston Express addressed this immediately, adopting the 'Strap N Go' load restraint system, designed to allow truck drivers to load their freight in a safe and secure manner with minimal manual handling.
Through this simple system of pulleys, ratchets and hook poles, drivers are no longer required to get onto the back of a truck to move pallets of goods, reducing the risk of shoulder and back injuries or falls off the back of the truck. This significantly reduces the risk of manual handling injuries among drivers and saves them time.
Partnering to achieve a safer workplace
In mid-2019 Winston Express partnered with icare under the P2 injury prevention program, taking their workplace safety beyond the truck. This is when Winston Express really began focusing in on the cultural shift they set out to achieve through increased consultation, communication, better risk identification and training.
Working together with icare, insurance brokerage Austbrokers AEI Transport and occupational rehabilitation and workplace health solutions provider Altius Group, Winston Express ran a culture survey for its workers. This was followed by an assessment of their organisation's work health and safety practices.
From this, an action plan was developed involving:
- a redesign of their risk management framework
- comprehensive training for workers to proactively identify and report hazards in their daily work
- an upgrade of the organisation's WHS management system to ensure all workers have access to the company WHS manual
- development of a Traffic Management Plan for their Western Sydney site
- regular site walks and inspections
- rewarding and recognising positive safety behaviours
- increasing awareness and initiatives around mental health and wellbeing.
"With the support of icare, Altius Group and Austbrokers AEI Transport, Winston Express's workplace safety program has gone from strength to strength. Through our participation in the P2 program our approach to safety began to focus more holistically on our employees and how we involve them in safety," said Ms Smith.
Building a positive safety culture through communication and consultation
Winston Express is most proud of the cultural shift they've achieved over the past year. Since commencing on the program, they've achieved a positive shift in their safety culture to one focused on consultation, training and communication.
"Developing an organisational culture where two-way communication between workers and leaders is supported and encouraged is crucial to driving a safer workplace and Winston Express have taken that important first step."
Open dialogue on safety is encouraged at Winston Express. Workers are consulted on key safety matters, including risk management and the implementation of safety systems. They are also empowered to speak up at any time if something doesn't look safe.
Ms Smith explained "Consulting and engaging our workers more in safety decisions has helped them feel part of the solution rather than feeling like safety behaviours are being forced upon them and this has led to better uptake of safety initiatives overall."
When it comes to communication around safety, Winston Express is taking things to the next level, sharing their safety learnings with their industry peers.
In addition to communicating important safety messages internally, they're actively sharing their safety messages outside the organisation, encouraging their customers to improve their own site safety.
The road ahead
Going forward, Winston Express is committed to maintaining zero injuries in the workplace. They have a number of safety initiatives in the pipeline, including further safety features in their fleet. They're also continuing their focus on the whole person with a health and wellbeing program in development, commencing with Mental Health First Aid training.