Fenner Dunlop takes safety procedures full circle

Fenner Dunlop’s highest priority has always been safety due to its workers’ exposure to hazardous equipment and work environments. The company discusses its focus on people to ensure safe operations.

Although already a key priority, Fenner Dunlop has continued to broaden its focus on health and safety, continuously striving towards an injury free workplace across its Australian operations.

While Fenner Dunlop’s previous work to underline the importance of and improve its safety procedures often concentrated on operations and equipment, its latest initiative aims to put people at the forefront of implementing safe practice, from upper management through to its workforce.

To do so, Fenner Dunlop joined forces with SafetyCircle, a company that designs powerful cultural changes in the workplace to build a positive health and safety culture, to roll out workforce engagement and effective field leadership initiatives.

SafetyCircle uses direct language and straight-forward ideas that appeal to workers at all levels of a business and brings teams together by focussing on the human element of a well, healthy and safe work culture.

It was enhanced following a research project directed by University of Tasmania associate professor, Benjamin Brooks, who identified three key areas for creating a more effective work culture: personal engagement, supportive leadership and regular reinforcement.

A key aspect of this is moving the emphasis from negatives, such as injuries and danger, to positives by reminding businesses and workers that the simplest, yet most important point of a safety culture is sending workers home safely each day to enjoy their life to the fullest.

SafetyCircle managing director Martyn Bradfield says connecting people to their ‘why’ is part of personalising their experience in building a safe work culture.

“The more we connect together and understand that everyone has their own why, the more likely we are to speak up and fully participate in making a difference at a local level,” Bradfield tells Safe to Work.

“Getting workers connected to what is in it for them and what is their ‘why’ helps to build that social expectation.”

One of SafetyCircle’s core techniques is working with companies like Fenner Dunlop to build a culture where workers feel comfortable interrupting their colleagues if they are doing something potentially hazardous at work.

This active involvement gives workers ownership and connection with their workplace’s health and safety procedures.

SafetyCircle has helped Fenner Dunlop to improve its total recordable injury frequency rate (TRIFR) by 40 per cent and has recorded improvement as high as 98 per cent across its versatile range of Australian clients.

“Safety is all framed around the goal of everyone wanting to go home safely every day,” Bradfield says.

“The people we work with all have great lives and a lot to be grateful for, so it makes sense for them to make the effort to not get hurt at work. Switching people on to that is what makes a difference.”

Working in environments such as mine sites, workshops and warehouses, Fenner Dunlop already had a stringent existing work, health and safety plan in place.

SafetyCircle’s people-focussed program fit in well to allow Fenner Dunlop to enhance its existing safety measures and engage its workforce with its procedures.

Fenner Dunlop surveyed its employees, who responded that they wanted to be more actively engaged in managing their own safety, prompting the company to implement a program that allowed this, which was when it turned to SafetyCircle.

As Fenner Dunlop chief operating officer Steve Abbott explains, SafetyCircle has given the employees confidence to break down the culture of being hesitant to speak out with colleagues and helping one another to improve their own safety measures for a safer all-round workplace.

“For us, implementing SafetyCircle is really about generating a common language for the people involved in the work to interact with each other and enable them to feel comfortable interrupting each other,” Abbott says.

“It’s not just the language itself, it’s also about the culture. Generally in Australia, interrupting your workmates who are potentially undertaking an at risk behaviour is something we are not often comfortable with.

“SafetyCircle has allowed Fenner Dunlop to break down that culture of not speaking out and getting our workforce to be more actively involved in determining the way the business will operate from a safety perspective.”

Having the same common language explaining simple concepts that are regularly reinforced to the workers meant that SafetyCircle resonated with Fenner Dunlop’s diverse workforce, and the simplicity of it enabled the company to roll it out across their Australian operations.

Abbott says the versatility of SafetyCircle allowed Fenner Dunlop to implement it within their manufacturing business, which is a more factory-oriented environment, as well as its services business, which is vastly different as employees visit multiple customer sites.

“Following a universal program enables that engagement with the different styles of work,” he says. “This is what SafetyCircle does; it’s not generic to a particular work style.

“It is also versatile to the workers; you need to have not just the engagement of senior executives, but also through to the next level or it just won’t engage consistently with the individuals.”

Applying SafetyCircle to its operations allowed Fenner Dunlop to fill the gap in its safety procedures and for its workers to choose the types of localised solutions they wanted to introduce under Fenner Dunlop’s existing safety system framework.

Despite a people-based solution not being the usual type of safety framework Fenner Dunlop invests in, Abbott is impressed with the positive change in safety culture within the business.

“The nature of the business we are in leads itself to procedures, equipment and training so SafetyCircle filled the people gap really well in that sense,” he says.

“Having a really different people-based solution to safety filled that gap really well and to see a 40 per cent improvement in the overall TRIFR is particularly pleasing.

“It has been a significant effort to roll out, then to see the results that have come through is really pleasing for the team.”

This article will also appear in the Jan-Feb edition of Safe to Work.

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