Standard construction safety equipment on wooden table

Mainmark is challenging WHS culture for the better

Wednesday, April 28 marks World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day. It is a time to reflect on the importance of workplace practices, with the aim of reducing and preventing work-related occupational diseases, deaths, injuries, and illnesses.

Despite a 53 per cent decrease in workplace fatalities between 2007 and 2019[1] in Australia, incidents still occur every year. This is why it’s important to continue raising awareness of work health and safety (WHS) and proactively take action to minimise the risks to employees.

Mainmark remains dedicated to WHS and last year appointed work health safety manager Francesca Davis, whose wealth of industry knowledge and experience supports ongoing safety awareness within our organisation.

Since joining Mainmark in August 2020, what progress have you seen in terms of WHS culture and protocols?

There has been a huge shift in culture in WHS because we are approaching it differently. We now use tools like ‘leader-led’ safety conversations that involve our senior managers talking proactively to staff across the entire business about safety issues that directly relate to their role.

Initially, I would brief the whole ANZ team on a WHS policy or specific procedures that they would then have to remember and follow. Now we actively discuss details about different safety issues and talk collaboratively about what solutions are available.

This approach has created a huge cultural change – rather than simply providing a work-around for an expected situation, we’re acknowledging the solution itself and exploring its merit in the workplace.

Has there been a reduction in reported incidents at Mainmark?

Incident reports are based on what is reported after an incident occurs, and are therefore not always an accurate or appropriate measure. Talking about incidents in a statistical context doesn’t always help our team recognise and act on risks and hazards. Instead, we prefer to focus on the indications of a healthy WHS culture. We discuss how many in our team are having open, honest conversations about safety concerns, and we ask if people are sharing their lessons learned, or including safety in their daily ‘toolbox talk’.

We also focus on whether or not business leaders are actively engaging in conversations with their team about safety issues to ensure there is no gap in understanding between management and the wider workforce. This helps ensure that any emerging safety concerns are addressed and the chance of future similar incidents is minimised.

What WHS behavioural changes have either happened or need to happen at Mainmark?

What we’re focusing on is subscribing to a safety culture based on the idea that our people are at the core of safety in Mainmark, rather than processes and procedures.

Workplace safety has traditionally been about procedural awareness; making sure people follow the procedure and do not deviate from the steps in place. However, the fact is that our team members come across unexpected situations every day, and they need to know how to resolve a situation and come to a safe solution in the heat of the moment. Mainmark’s WHS approach does include a procedure, however that procedure is more of a foundation that we stand on as we concentrate on risk awareness.

Our WHS behavioural changes are a result of acknowledging that good WHS is not about knowing policy verbatim; it’s about empowering someone to understand risk management and focus on the everyday problems that may appear on site. It’s about ‘on the fly’ risk assessment and understanding your actions, possible consequences, and being able to appropriately resolve issues on site in safe ways.

Ultimately, Mainmark has prioritised safety awareness and good judgement over a rule book, so people have the internal thought processes necessary to assess risk and make good decisions to safeguard themselves and others.

Can you talk about the outcomes or feedback from your recent initiatives?

Our ‘Drive so we all survive’ campaign was very successful. We helped reduce incidents of speeding and unsafe driving month on month by 50 per cent. We partnered with PBF Australia (The Paraplegic Benefit Fund) who delivered a series of inspirational talks aimed at injury prevention. These talks were delivered by a spinal cord injury survivor and challenged the Mainmark team to consider the lifelong impacts an unsafe work choice can have.

We capitalised on an already existing Verizon GPS tracking system for our light and heavy vehicles to implement real-time coaching and speeding alerts.  We implemented recognition and rewards to promote safe driving behaviours across the business, taking time every week to acknowledge these staff members. It empowered us to believe that a positive WHS culture can actually have an impact on the success of the business, so it’s worth investing time and money into it.

Under your lead, are there any safety protocols or issues that you’re spearheading that are specific to Mainmark?

Mainmark is utilising its growing shift in WHS culture to improve ‘chain of responsibility’ awareness, and applying this to our company vehicles. We are revising who in the organisation is responsible and can address a variety of vehicle related safety factors, including fatigue management, driver responsibility, rostering, fleet maintenance and other transport elements.

This move is in response to the national heavy vehicle law in Australia, which previously held a heavy vehicle driver responsible for an accident where their vehicle was involved. It was realised that the driver is actually at the end of the chain of responsibility, which includes those involved with vehicle maintenance, managers and other roles that have a major hand in how the driver does their job.

Ultimately, WHS is a fundamental principle and an ethical responsibility – we don’t just do it to tick a box; we do it protect the Mainmark family.

[1] Safework Australia, 2020, Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia 2020.

Francesca Davis

Francesca is an experienced Work Health Safety Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the construction industry. Skilled in Rail Safety, Risk Management, Safety Assurance, Subcontracts Management, Project Estimation, Workplace Safety, and Occupational Health.