Safety at work, you're in charge

icare’s customer, The Hills Shire Council, shares how this simple motto became the catalyst to improved safety outcomes for their outdoor workforce.

Hill Shire  Council staff standing in front of their offices

Preventing injuries at work must start somewhere, and sometimes just a simple change in mindset can lead to building a strong safety culture.

Hills Shire Council refreshed their safety program with a simple motto for workers and management to live and breathe by, and it has yielded great results!

Having recently been highly commended in the icare Aware Awards, Hills Shire would like to share their story with all NSW businesses. 

Who is Hills Shire Council?

The Hills Shire is a local government area in the north-west region of Sydney. Covering over 401 square kilometres and stretching from the M2 Hills Motorway in the south to Wiseman’s Ferry on the Hawksbury River in the north, it is one of NSW’s fastest growing regions.

The Hills Shire Council (THSC) is responsible for delivering a range of infrastructure and community services to over 250,000 people living in the area. The Council’s 600 staff provide a range of services for residents ranging from waste and environment management to childcare and community services. 

A problem to solve

THSC identified that their outdoor workforce was faced with the highest health and safety risks due to the diverse range of work tasks they perform in varied and constantly changing work environments. These workers could be involved in anything from repairing roads and footpaths to maintaining council assets such as parks and sporting fields. They are highly mobile, often working remotely and unsupervised.

Other than the standard health and safety activities offered to all THSC’s workers, there were no additional safety measures in place to support these workers. Committed to continuously improving the safety of these workers, THSC put their minds towards developing a targeted safety program, beginning with a simple motto.

Safety starts with a motto

In 2015, THSC introduced a safety motto across the organisation to recharge and refresh their outdoor workforce team’s beliefs and attitudes towards workplace health and safety.  The motto ‘Safety at Work, You’re in Charge’ became the organisation’s new mantra. 

As the name suggests, ‘Safety at Work, You’re in Charge’ is about promoting THSC’s workers to take personal accountability for their safety and wellbeing and providing opportunities to recognise and reward workers demonstrating the right behaviours, rather than focusing on discipline for the wrong behaviours.

In addition to the motto, THSC’s leadership team invested in other safety initiatives such as a dedicated annual Safety Day for their outdoor workers. Safety Day is held once a year over two days and has consisted of a diverse range of training topics from vehicle and plant inspections awareness to icare Paralympian Speaker program as well as presentation of individual safety awards. 

THSC’s Senior Coordinator Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) Christie Vlaovic says the Safety Days have been a great success, receiving consistently positive feedback from participants. 

“It’s a fantastic way to get all our outdoor workers together, to build team morale, consult about any proposed changes and create a healthy culture of sharing safety knowledge and experiences,” she said.

“It’s also a great opportunity to provide our workers with additional training and knowledge tailored to the specific risks and hazards they face in their roles and to undertake additional safety inspections on vehicles used by these workers,” she added.

A safer outdoor workforce

Since implementing these initiatives, THSC has seen a 32 per cent year-on-year decrease in incident and injury frequency in their outdoor workforce group.

The investment in Safety Day in particular, has paid off.  The number of proactive safety conversations among outdoor workers has increased, which is reflected by the improved awareness and compliance scores with THSC’s safety policies and procedures.

“Since we started holding Safety Day we have seen a steady decrease in the number of injuries among our outdoor workers, dropping from 66 in 2015, to 45 in 2017,” explained Ms Vlaovic.

“At the end of the day it all comes down to supporting a culture of individual accountability for safety and focusing on rewarding the right behaviours, rather than punishing the bad,” she added.

Got a good safety story to share?

Your safety success stories can help other businesses keep their people safe. Share your stories with us and don’t forget to nominate for the icare Aware Awards