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Good work design for young workers

The 'Good work design for young workers' webinar focused on:

  • influencers of health and safety for young people at work
  • the critical role of supervisors and managers as leaders
  • aspects of good work design such as induction, training, supervision, feedback, support and mentoring
  • the importance of a positive safety culture
  • how to implement young worker safety programs.

You can listen and watch the webinar recording or view the presentation slides (PPT, 12943 KB) and transcript.

  • Read transcript
    • Good work design for young workers

      Slide 1

      Melanie Stojanovic:  Good afternoon everyone and welcome to this Workplace Health and Safety and WorkCover Queensland facilitated webinar and thank you for joining us today as we discuss how good work design can help prevent injuries and improve your safety culture.

      Slide 2

      Melanie:  My name is Melanie Stojanovic and I’m an Industry Manager at WorkCover Queensland and I’ll be your moderator for today’s session.

      Slide 3

      Melanie: Before we start, I would like to quickly take you through how this webinar format works and specifically how you can interact during the session.

      On the current slide you will see an image of the webinar control panel.

      You can select audio on the control panel and change between computer and audio telephone, depending on your preferred method. If you have headphones and speakers connected to your computer, select ‘mic & speakers’, otherwise choose ‘telephone’ to access the dial in details.

      You can hide/unhide the control panel using the coloured arrow. This will make sure you can see the entire screen.

      If you have a comment or question for the presenter or moderator, please type your comment/question in the bottom panel and press Send to submit.

      Your comments and questions will then appear in the middle section and please send through your comments or questions as the session progresses and we will try to answer them as we move through the webinar.

      I kindly ask though that all questions asked remain on general issues as opposed to specific or employer specific related issues.

      Slide 4

      Melanie:  If we can’t get to the questions during the session, we will either address them at the end of the session or follow up with some summary points/FAQ after we finish the webinar.

      The webinar and publication recording will be published on the worksafe.qld.gov.au website for your reference and so we can continually improve our level of service we would appreciate your completing a survey at the end of the webinar.

      Slide 5

      Melanie:  Today’s webinar will be presented by Elliot Parkinson from Workplace Health and Safety and Joe Meissner from Seqwater. Elliot is a Principal Advisor, Leadership and Culture at Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and is leading the delivery of Workplace Health and Safety’s young worker initiative. This is an evidence based approach to reduce the injury rate of young workers. The initiative involves supporting and how to better understand how to engage with young workers in health and safety through good work design, effective leadership and a supportive safety culture.

      Joe is the Work Health, Safety and Wellbeing Manager at Seqwater and has built an award winning work health and safety management system with a primary focus on engaging young workers, apprentices and trainees. Joe has also ventured on an exhaustive workplace, health and safety and culture program which has proven to be highly successful in staff engagement and ensuring that safety is the highest priority in everyday life at Seqwater.

      Slide 6

      Melanie:  As way of background you will see on your screen a slide that shows the rate of serious injuries per 1000 workers and the number of injuries by selected industry.

      • Based on all accepted workers’ compensation claims, there are approximately 15,300 young workers injured each year.
      • Based on the same group of claims for serious injuries, there are approximately 4,400 young workers seriously injured each year.

      Industry breakdowns

      • What you can see on the slide in front of you the blue line represents the number of claims for serious injuries accepted by WorkCover Queensland for young workers.
      • Green line represents injury rate, that is, number claims for serious injuries per 1,000 workers per industry.
      • Referring to this graph, it represents young workers aged between 15 and 24, make up 14.4% of the first five industries fields of the graph being Manufacturing, Construction, Agriculture, Transport, Admin/support services. However they account for 20% of all accepted workers’ compensation injury claims in this same group.
      • Just on a note that Admin/support services is largely driven by labour hire workers which fall into that category and most of these are labour hire to the manufacturing and construction industries.

      With that brief overview, I’ll hand across to Elliot to share what Workplace Health and Safety Queensland have been working on.

      Slide 7

      Elliot Parkinson:  Thanks for that Melanie and thanks for all those that tuned in. It’s great to be able to share with you what we’ve been doing. There was a few hundred people that registered for today’s webinar and they’re representing a range of different industry sectors, so it’s great.

      Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and we’re the Regulator for work health and safety in Queensland has done a significant amount of work in the young worker space over a number of years. We feel we’ve been reasonably successful in raising the issue of young worker safety and making it visible but we’ve also learnt a few things along the way. What I’ll share with you today is a reflection of the journey we’ve gone on. And while as a Regulator we’ve got a role to play so do others in the community. It’s our aim to engage with industry and the wider community to help ensure our young workers remain healthy and safe at work.

      In my own experience people tend to be quite passionate about young workers safety. Maybe that’s because they remember their own experiences as young people or they’re directly responsible for a young employee in their own job or they see the bigger picture and see an opportunity to influence our future workplace leaders.

      In the last 12 months, WHSQ have ramped up our focus on this issue and our approach to improving young workers safety has become part of our broader leadership and culture program. Now you might ask why young workers getting hurt has anything to do with leadership. Well, what I aim to emphasise today is that it’s got everything to do with leadership because what the evidence highlights as well as the good and bad stories we hear from the field is the importance of understanding people and the culture that they form.  The processes, the systems, the paperwork, they’re just there to support you and are products of what you do. What ultimately gets young workers home safely is the relationships and interactions that exist within their workplace.

      Slide 8

      Melanie:  Thank you Elliot, we’re just going to have a look at some poll questions, you will see those come up on your screen.

      So the first one should be up there now. Now the question is which of these statements best reflects how you feel? So for young workers and you’ve four options there.

      Okay if you can please choose one that most appropriately reflects your opinion.

      And I’ll just close off that poll in a few seconds.

      Slide 9

      Melanie:  And I’m just sharing the results with you now on the screen. So you’ll see that:

      • 12% of you have answered that young workers have limitations, are dangerous and need extra protection.
      • 10% for option B are safe when they follow the rules just like everyone else.
      • 66% believe young workers are safer when they are capable and feel supported
      • 13% believe that young workers stay safer asking questions or speaking up when unsafe.

      Elliot:  Interesting results and we’ll actually ask that poll question again at the end and we’ll see if any of those views had changed. There is no right or wrong answer, it’s important to highlight that but interesting to see where people start.

      Melanie:  Okay we also have a second poll. And that’s just going to pop up on your screen in a moment.

      Slide 10

      Melanie:  Does your organisation invest extra time and effort or use different ways of engaging with your young workers about safety? So I’ll give everyone a second or two to answer that one.

      Okay, just about to close that one off. Eighty percent of you have voted.

      Slide 11

      Melanie:  So in answer to that, I’ll just share those responses.

      Does your organisation invest extra time and effort or use different ways of engaging with young workers about safety?

      • 28% said yes
      • 36% yes, a little
      • 8% were unsure
      • 21% not at all
      • 6% don’t employ young workers.

      Elliot:  Interesting results there and I think it goes to show that there’s a few hopefully ideas that people will be able to take away today to improve what they’re doing and hopefully inspire some action for those that might be starting out on the journey.

      Slide 12

      Elliot:  So Melanie gave an overview of some of the statistics relating to injuries suffered by young workers across different industry sectors and with young workers, we define those as aged between 15 and 24 years.

      I know numbers and stats can get a bit overwhelming in safety but I think when we consider the sheer number of injuries experienced by young workers each year, it speaks for itself. In Queensland there’s over 4,400 young people seriously injured at work each year. That’s an injury that keeps that young person off work for five or more days or leads to some form of permanent impairment. Just take a moment to reflect on that.  Four thousand, four hundred young people seriously injured at work in one year just in Queensland.

      That’s a pretty staggering number but it’s just a number. It’s important to remember that each one of these injuries is suffered by a person often just starting out in their careers.

      Slide 13

      Elliot:  Let’s consider it from a more personal perspective. Some of you tuned in may have seen a video that we produced about Tiffany Ward. In October of 2008, Tiffany was 18, working at a potato processing factory when she had both arms trapped and dragged into a machine. Her story tells of a grim set of circumstances that had a devastating result. Tiffany was fairly new to the job but was left unsupervised. She saw that the machine needed cleaning at the end of the day. As with most young workers, she was eager to impress her supervisor and co-workers by getting in and helping. Now Tiffany hadn’t been given much of an induction to cleaning scraps out of the machine. Guarding had to be removed to perform cleaning and there was no lock out system. When it was turned on by a co-worker and its blades were activated, it quickly cut her arms to shreds. It took emergency crews over 40 minutes to free her while her arms were trapped above her head. She was airlifted to hospital where doctors performed 30 hours of surgery. Although doctors were able to save her arm, she will never regain use of her right hand and her left arm has been left with restricted mobility.

      Tiffany’s story is a moving example of the physical and emotional impact that a work injury can have on someone particularly a young person, their future and those around them. If you haven’t seen her story the film is on www.worksafe.qld.gov.au. I’d encourage you to take five minutes out of your day to watch it and to share it with others.

      Slide 14

      Elliot:  Governments and industry have recognised for some time, the safety of young workers is an important issue. We’ve done a range of different things to try and tackle it. There appears to be a growing recognition amongst the wider community that there’s more we can do.

      One of the more common approaches that we have all traditionally used is simply telling young workers to ask questions and to speak up when they feel unsafe. Over time with a greater understanding of how the young human brain works we’ve begun to realise that this on its own is not enough. Now I’m not saying it isn’t important to open up communication so that young people have the opportunity to raise concerns or questions, but we can’t rely on that. It’s not enough on its own. It’s vital to go further, focus on developing their abilities and confidence in relation to work health and safety and think a bit differently about who really has the biggest influence on a young person staying safe at work.

      Melanie:  Okay so I’ll just launch another poll question.

      Slide 15

      Melanie:  You’ll see up on up on your screen the question who has the biggest influence over a young worker staying safe at work?  So a few options there in front of you.  If you could please all complete that question. Okay.  Just a couple more seconds if everyone can answer the poll. All right, fantastic.  With over 90% of you who have now voted I’ll close the poll and share those responses.

      Slide 16

      Melanie:  So you can see from the question - Who is the biggest influence over a young worker staying safe at work? 

      • 9% of you believe themselves
      • 49% believe their supervisor
      • 41% their co-workers
      • 2% believe the CEO of the employer
      • 0% interesting say nil for their parents

      So I’ll pass back over to Elliot.

      Elliot:  Very interesting and it really reflects what we’re going to be talking about today. I’m sure you can all reflect on that. There are a few people that have a big influence over a young persons’ attitudes and behaviours and when it comes to work their direct supervisor or manager holds the most critical role.

      Slide 17

      Elliot:  To give you an example of this. There was a research study done recently in the US that followed a group of 15 to 19 year old employees. It was a longitudinal study which just means that it followed the workers over a period while taking a few different measurements and the findings were pretty interesting. Firstly, if a young person felt engaged with their workplace, they were more likely to speak up about safety. This is probably what we’d expect. However, the second finding was a bit more interesting. They found that the group that did speak up but were met with a negative response from their supervisor experienced high rates of injury. This goes to show the vulnerability of young workers that become disengaged because of a poor quality relationship with their supervisor. So our major focus is frontline supervisors and managers and looking at the role that they can play in supporting young workers to stay safe at work rather than just trying to tell young workers to speak up.

      Slide 18

      Elliot:  WHSQ has developed a model based on the evidence available that maps out four key areas that influence the health and safety of young workers. Different people have varying levels that they can influence each area and therefore different roles to play. The point I would make is that there are a range of stakeholders in the community that can make a contribution. Workplaces, right from the business owner or CEO down to the people working alongside a young person. Governments, training organisations, schools and parents, youth workers, community organisations. As the focus of today’s webinar is on good work design and it’s mostly a workplace audience, I will focus mostly on the work design and workplace culture areas.

      Slide 19

      Elliot:  Essentially the mind and body area refers to the characteristics of young people and how they relate to health and safety risks at work. We call it the unique risk profile. It’s not just inexperience. There are some developmental factors. For example, did you know that the brain doesn’t finish developing until the mid 20s with those brain centres responsible for logic and complex decision-making developing last. Also generational factors like an exposure to technology and different learning styles like no generation before them. These factors help to shape a young person’s understanding and attitudes towards risk taking. They’re often shaped early on in life, can be difficult to change. But we need to consider them. I said before that we’ve often stuck to encouraging young workers to ask questions or speak up when they feel unsafe. If we know that they aren’t yet as proficient at knowing when something becomes unsafe how do they speak up? If we know that they are eager to impress and fit in can we really expect them to ask questions?

      Here’s an interesting little story around understanding risk and risk taking behaviour. The actual origin of the word risk itself can be traced back to an ancient Greek term ‘rhizikon’. It’s a navigational term meaning difficulty to avoid in the sea. Really what they’re referring to is ships crashing on rocks. Why I think this is interesting – is the origin of the word risk itself comes from a time in the middle ages where people were daring to explore and experience the unfamiliar world around them. This obviously involved considerable risk. That’s where the word came from and the similarities shouldn’t be lost with what we’re talking about here with young workers who are exploring and experiencing the unfamiliar world around them. Risk shouldn’t be a dirty word. We shouldn’t demonise risk taking behaviour by young people. From their perspective, it’s a human instinct to learn and gain experience. How we can help is to support young workers to understand risk in the work they do by developing their skills to perceive it, identify it and effectively manage it and while we can’t change some of these characteristics we can consider their impacts on the other areas of influence.

      Slide 20

      Elliot:  Education and learning covers what goes into preparing a young person for work. Risk management is a skill. We often think about it only as a process of paperwork with a risk matrix, these are just products. Risk management is really the ability to think through what could go wrong and be able to plan for the best way to prevent that from happening. I mentioned before that as it’s mostly a workplace audience I will just touch on this. But we are engaging with those people that deliver education and training or work experience placements to try and embed risk management as a core skill in these programs so that when young people begin work they’re better prepared to participate and contribute to the way health and safety is managed.

      Slide 21

      Elliot:  Work design refers to the design and management of work tasks, activities, relationships and responsibilities. There’s a lot of research that has been done recently that’s helping to grow our understanding of what good work design looks like.  Good work design means work is designed in a way that not only ensures safety but contributes to better health and wellbeing, job satisfaction and productivity, all the while considering the unique characteristics for the worker. If we think about young workers there’s really three key factors that contribute to good work design for them.

      Firstly, induction and training. An induction isn’t just that first few hours of a new worker’s first day on the job, it should be an ongoing process. Along with a general workplace induction employers should be using task specific inductions to provide instruction as well as check this has been understood whenever a young person performs a task or uses equipment that they’re unfamiliar with. To keep it practical, we encourage the use of the ‘Tell me. Show me. Watch me.’ approach to inductions and training.

      Tell me - means providing a clear and detailed explanation of the task, paying particular attention to the critical elements.

      Show me - means demonstrating the task while the young person watches, explaining key points and asking the young worker questions to check for understanding.

      Watch me - means reviewing the young person performing their own demonstration of the task and providing clear and constructive feedback.  This will help to ensure the task is understood and being performed correctly and safely.  This three stage approach can be applied to any induction or training process.

      Secondly, an appropriate level of supervision is needed based on what task is being performed and the knowledge and experience of the young worker. It’s up to the supervisor to determine what an appropriate level of supervision is. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of the young worker to ask for help. Additionally, supervisors and more experienced workers should be aware that their own behaviours are being closely watched and modelled by any young workers around them. This means it’s important that their own actions back up what they say. The influence of role modelling is very powerful and can be an unconscious form of communication itself. Adequate time should also be invested to provide feedback. This should be constructive, giving young workers an opportunity to ask questions. Reward and recognition of a job well done is just as important as correcting errors.

      Finally, social support and mentoring is vital to help young people make that successful transition into working life. The quality of the relationship they have with their supervisor and their co-workers is vital for them to become socially engaged within their work environment. When they’re engaged, they’re more likely to pay attention to instructions and advice provided by their supervisor, share their good ideas to improve the way things are done, ask questions, raise concerns and report incidents and stay with the organisation long term.

      Examples of this might include structured mentoring programs when experienced co-workers form a relationship with a young worker to provide support, share insights and experiences and help them to progress personally and professionally. It might include life skills training to assist young workers with issues such as relationship skills, goal setting, financial skills and physical and mental wellbeing. It might also include employee assistance and counselling services. These conversations or activities might not even mention health and safety. However, just getting them engaged has been shown to flow over to a positive safety performance.

      We recently released a film titled “The Right Start” that aims to show some real life examples of how these elements of work design can look. It follows two young workers as they go through their work days highlighting the differences between how their supervisors interact with them, who have two very different styles. A link will be included in the follow up email we send out to you after the webinar.

      Slide 22

      Elliot:  A positive workplace culture helps young workers to understand that their health and safety is valued, to feel confident to report incidents and ask questions and to shape a positive attitude of health and safety that will guide them throughout their career. Workplace culture depends on the quality of relationships and communication between people. There are three key aspects of workplace culture that influence the health and safety of young workers.

      Firstly, most workplaces will have a set of values. Young workers bring their own personal values and beliefs. The alignment between their personal values and those of their employer will help to determine their level of engagement and involvement in health and safety. This makes it important for employers to gain an understanding of what drives and motivates their young workers and how to use this to engage with them around health and safety.

      Secondly, supervisors and managers demonstrating effective leadership is critical to ensuring that young workers are healthy and safe at work. A high performing workplace focuses on developing leaders at every level of the business. This means shaping the attitudes and behaviours of young workers towards health and safety to support them to become safety leaders in their own right.

      Joe will be telling a story shortly of how an unfortunate incident to a young person at Seqwater led their organisation on a safety journey that has led them to be a better and safer place to work. This was built on leadership. There’s also a video case study on www.worksafe.qld.gov.au of the YOLO Initiative from Stanwell Corporation who were a finalist for one of our safe work awards last year. For anyone that knows YOLO, standing for ‘You Only Live Once’, it’s a term used by young people in relation to risk taking behaviour. This program aims to challenge that by giving young people the skills they need to be able to understand and manage risk. They did this through investing in practical training that was based on the unique risk profile of young workers and with the ongoing support of a workplace mentor. It’s a great example of an organisation showing leadership and hopefully is able to inspire some ideas in other workplaces like your own. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, I’d encourage you to have a look.

      Finally, effective communication and consultation are vital. Engaging young workers relies on communication. We often think of technology as the best platform for communicating with young people and while it can be useful being authentic is most important. Just planning to use Facebook because all young people seem to be on Facebook is bound to fail. In fact most of the research identifies genuine, open, face to face interactions on a regular basis as the most effective form of communicating with young people and with consultation wouldn’t it be great if rather than seeing young workers as a liability we saw them as a source of innovation and ideas to do things better. I heard someone use the term ‘cognitive entrenchment’ in a presentation recently. Basically the longer someone is exposed to a certain setting and way of thinking the less likely they are to think outside the box. I thought this was a great term and something we can try and avoid by involving our young workers in consultation

      Slide 23

      Elliot:  So my top four take away messages. 

      Firstly, start a conversation with supervisors and managers. Talk to them about the risk profile of young workers and put it on their radars.

      Secondly, design good work that manages risk as well as improving physical and psychological health. That means focussing on providing an effective induction and training process, appropriate levels of supervision and feedback and positive forms of social support and mentoring. 

      Thirdly, create a workplace culture that aims to engage, support and develop your young workers.  Rather than just seeing them as a liability and needing to protect them from harm, invest in developing their skills and confidence.

      Finally, there’s a lot to learn from others out there. 

      If you’ve done something good please let us know and we can share your success and learnings. Similarly if you’re looking for inspiration we have a few films and stories on our website and we’ll continue to profile a range of safety leaders.

      Slide 24

      Elliot:  As mentioned earlier we’ve recently released a short film that targets supervisors and managers. It’s set in the construction industry and we are also releasing another film later in the year that focuses on the manufacturing and warehousing industry.  But really the messages are relevant for any setting.

      In a few months time, we’ll be releasing a toolkit titled “Supporting young workers to stay safe at work”. This toolkit will provide the vital information needed for workplaces, training organisations and others to take action in improving young worker safety. It includes checklists to allow people to reflect on what they currently do and links to key resources such as presentation templates, films and case studies.

      Upon release of this toolkit, we are rolling out a program of business engagement across Queensland. Our local inspectors will support businesses to have a conversation with managers, supervisors and young workers about young workers’ safety.

      Melanie:  So in relation to what Elliot’s just mentioned there’s another poll question coming up on your screen.

      Slide 25

      Melanie:  Are you interested in getting more support from a Workplace Health and Safety Inspector about your workers’ safety?  So Elliot’s mentioned there’s a few initiatives coming out of Workplace Health and Safety that you may be interested in being a part of. So if you could please answer that poll question.

      I’ll give you a few more seconds to place your answer. Okay, so I’ll close that question off now and I'll publish those responses up on your screen.

      Slide 26

      Melanie:  So that’s a great response. 

      • 47% of people are wanting some more information
      • 21% aren’t ready at this point
      • 32% would like some more information.

      So I’ll pass back to Elliot.

      Slide 27

      Elliot:  That’s great. I’d encourage anyone that is interested in participating in a pilot version of this program to express your interest by getting in touch with me. My email address is on the screen there.

      Slide 28

      Elliot:  Finally, I mentioned up front that our young workers’ initiative is part of our bigger focus on improving safety leadership and culture. The Safety Leadership at Work Program aims to bring industry together in online forums like this, industry events, as well as linking them with the latest tools and resources, case studies and leader profiles. If you’re not already a member it’s free to sign up by emailing safetyleadership@justice.qld.gov.au.  And that brings my time to an end. But if you have any questions you’d like answered please send them through via the webinar menu. We’ll try to answer as many of them at the end of today’s session. Thanks Melanie.

      Melanie:  Thanks Elliot. That’s a very informative session on what Workplace Health and Safety and some of your tips and tricks on working with younger workers.  I’ll now hand over to Joe to talk about Seqwater’s experience with working with young workers in the field.  Thanks Joe.

      Slide 29

      Joe Meissner:  A big thankyou to Melanie and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland for inviting me to speak today on our journey of “empowering our future”. Seqwater is the Queensland Government statutory authority responsible for ensuring a safe, secure and reliable bulk drinking water supply for more than three million people across South East Queensland. We also provide essential flood mitigation and irrigation services to around 1,200 rural customers in seven water supply schemes, and manage recreational areas visited by more than two million people a year and have a $10.8 billion dollar asset portfolio. For those interested we have a staff base of approximately 700 as well as some outsourced contractor supported sections as well.

      About me, I am not a safety professional as some might say, however was chosen for the role of WHS Manager to operationalise WHS across Seqwater, my background is in engineering and operations and as such have been practicing, mentoring and using safety systems throughout my career. I am passionate about safety, because I am passionate about my team, the people who I am ultimately responsible for. I think being at the coalface or receiving-end of safety systems and processes has enabled me in my current role to ensure that Seqwater’s safety systems and processes are deliverable, real world and practical for all to understand, use and importantly champion.

      Slide 30

      Joe:  Sadly, like so many other businesses I have spoken to in industry, our safety journey took shape just after we hurt someone at work, a young someone. And from that day on-wards, Seqwater has never been the same again – and for the better.

      I’ll talk a little bit about our incident.

      A second year electrical apprentice received an electric shock when the piece of electrical equipment they were working on was inadvertently re-energised.

      The apprentice received a minor burn to their right index finger as a result of the incident. The impact of this incident could have been significantly more serious given the risks associated with the work activity being performed. The incident that resulted in an Enforceable Undertaking being entered into by Seqwater occurred at the Lowood Water Treatment Plant in November 2010.

      Slide 31

      Joe:  On your screen you can see a solenoid plug that the arrow’s pointing to that the apprentice was terminating when the circuit was re-energised. The apprentice was sitting on the adjacent steel pipe at the time. Fortunate for us the young worker returned to work the following day and he has gone on to complete his electrical apprenticeship and is now a highly regarded electrician at Seqwater and we are lucky to have him in every sense of the word.

      Slide 32

      Joe:  From that moment Seqwater who was on the slowly progressing safety journey completely changed our approach on how we manage safety. New Permit to Work and site Access Systems were invested in and applied across our business. All staff were retrained in our safety systems. Safety Culture and Behaviour Program was developed and completely refocussed our work health and safety management system on our people. We realigned work health and safety team to mentor and not to police our workers and we developed a one-stop-shop near miss incident and hazard reporting line which we call 4040. Culturally for us, this was huge. Cutting edge safety leadership training was introduced which combined safety psychology and neuroscience or brain mapping technology for all of our leaders and the commencement of our safety walk program where senior leaders go out into the business and speak to our staff about safety.

      Slide 33

      Joe:  From the incident we recognised that the apprentice involved had been significantly failed by his supervisors, the system and the business. In understanding this and with the assistance of Work Health and Safety Queensland we then realised the risks that we have as an organisation who employs young workers have and how younger workers whom are vital for succession planning interpret, manage and perceive risks differently than that of an older generation.  So to assist our leaders in better managing our young workers in 2012, we hosted an internal youth worker initiative where a dedicated safety day was held for all Seqwater apprentices and trainees and the theme was there’s no such thing as an apprentice when it comes to safety.  We invited special guest speakers, had activities such as safety karaoke, making safety songs out of current music and getting the young workers and their leaders to perform them to the group.  We then closed with our CEO and general manager authorising our young workers to stop the job if they were unsure of a task and remind them that they have the power to question and not blindly do something that they feel wasn’t right or unsafe. 

      This was a very powerful take away message for all.  And the reasoning behind the title “there’s no such thing as an apprentice when it comes to safety” was to highlight to our young workers that just because they were new at their roles and perhaps inexperienced in the field that they possessed as much authority and say in safety adherence and compliance as their experienced supervisors.

      And it is interesting in listening to Elliot's piece on just giving young workers the ability to speak up isn't quite enough, as we found this to be true and authorising them to have a voice was only part of the cultural journey we were embarking on, our leaders had to then walk the talk and actively seek feedback from our young workers and naturally act on the information given, it is very much a two-way street.

      Slide 34

      Joe:  Based on the success of that day in 2012, Seqwater as part of our EU, had to sponsor a water industry safety event.  We sought permission to modify this deliverable and in 2014, hosted another youth safety day.  This time, industry wide.  The theme of this day was ‘Empowering our Future’.  The day was a complete success, we had over 90 young apprentices, trainees and graduates from multiple utilities across South East region along with their management representatives. There were special guest speakers from industry, Work Health and Safety Queensland, young workers who’d suffered a serious workplace incident, short movies including Tiffany’s story and Tim’s story.  We had prizes, activities and a take home Empowering Our Future safety pack for all participants.  The feedback from the day was fantastic.

      Slide 35

      Joe:  As stated management representatives from each entity were also invited along to the day joining in with their young workers.  And this was not only to display strong safety leadership from their own business leaders, but to assist them in taking back the key messages from the day and perhaps integrating those key messages into their business practices or safety cultural program.

      Slide 36

      Joe:  The image on your screen is just one of the two activity rooms at the end of the day quiz.  It was so large we had to spread across a couple of rooms.  We developed a quiz based on all of the key learnings from each of the guest speakers, presentations and the Work Health and Safety Queensland movies.  We deliberately ensured that the quiz teams were made up of a mixture of young workers from different businesses that allowed them to share their experiences and show that risk management is risk management no matter how subtle the differences in systems, processes or tools.  And as you can see in the centre of the tables the Quiz Master ensured that today’s technologically savvy young workers handed over their smartphones for the duration of the quiz.

      Slide 37

      Joe:  And naturally with a room full of young workers debate over the answers was at times at fever pitch as each member of the winning team received a share in the major prizes.

      Slide 38

      Joe:  Over the past 18 months at Seqwater, we've achieved some quantum shifts in our business’ safety culture and performance.  Previously we were a highly compliance only focussed business with a poor record of preventing injuries in the workplace.  Our only reported matrix to the board was our lost time injury frequency rate or LTIFR which then was 11.1.  We had a work health and safety management system that was disconnected to the operation side of our business and hence had safety systems and processes that were impractical in the field and misunderstood in the corporate sectors.

      Slide 39

      Joe:  Now I don’t expect you to read everything that’s on the screen at the moment, but it’s showing you where we were and where we’ve come to and as stated 18 months ago we completely refocussed our management system on safety culture, behaviour, health and wellbeing and of course our people. Our management system now comprises of a policy statement which references commitment to safety leadership, training and instruction, one framework and 16 elements that was in 2013 awarded Best Work Health and Safety Management System by Safe Work QLD of which we are very proud of.  Today we have a vibrant safety culture and achieving record low injuries to our workers.  Our reporting culture has never been better.  And importantly we are reporting new matrix to our board and have changed their focus from just LTIFR to various, more important leading indicators as well as health and wellbeing matrix.  In 2014 we were again humbled to win Best Health and Wellbeing Initiative from Safe Work QLD for our Be Healthy, Be Wealthy Program. 

      Recently we taken on a whole new intake of trainee rangers and it’s been fantastic to watch them learn and develop their safety culture in an environment we have created today. They have actively called the incident hotline our #4040 number and have actively challenged their lead rangers when they believed something should be reported.

      Slide 40

      Joe:  Our culture and behaviour program - really important.  We commenced our program and developed a whole new look, safety brand, style, image and made it consistent.  We engaged safety psychologists to develop a management system training that was delivered to all staff.  Greater than 650 people across three months.  And we also provided basic risk management techniques and cultural development foundation in that particular training.  The training outcome was the launch of our ‘calls to action’ - Speak up, get involved and follow the procedure.

      Slide 41

      Joe:  From our calls to action of speak up, get involved and follow the procedure we then formed a working team from representatives across our business develop our golden rules. We found that most other businesses promoted procedural golden rules and our focus was to establish purely behavioural golden rules. We developed a complete campaign including posters, pull up banners, an A5 booklet which was handed out to all staff by each manager to personally make the commitment and they were launched at our CEO Roadshows. Each one of our golden rules are linked with existing procedures and policies and hence if deliberately broken affirmative action could be taken. This provides the backbone of our golden rules and ensures that they are supported and not just promotional collateral without substance.

      Slide 42

      Joe:  On your screen, you’ll see examples of our golden rules collateral.  On the left you’ll see that our golden rules are based around an acrostic of the word safety funnily enough.  And each of the line items call out what we live by.  The S is speak up about any unsafe activity or hazard.  The A is assess, control and monitor risks.  The F is follow the procedure.  And again you’ll see the link here with our former calls to action.  The E is ensure all hazards, near miss incidents and injuries are reported.  The T is turn up fit for work and the Y is you check and wear your PPE.  On the right you can see the inside cover of our golden rules handbook with a personal commitment statement from our CEO.

      Slide 43

      Joe:  Other supporting cultural collateral.  We expanded our brand awareness through meeting room plaques that we start all meetings with safety conversations.  We changed corporate meeting templates to ensure that a safety moment is conducted on every agenda.  Safety stickers on all bathroom mirrors and a new look intranet site which is a one-stop-shop for all of our staff.  A work health and safety wellbeing calendar so all staff know what programs and initiatives are on offer and when.  And we have rolling plasma screens with cultural signage and short and sharp work health and safety questions and prompts rolling through the signage.  And some examples of our meeting room plaques and calendar and our bathroom stickers are on your screen.  And as I say to our staff, you can’t even escape us in the bathroom.

      Slide 44

      Joe:  Our cultural leadership program is important and Elliot spoke about the importance of leadership. We facilitated work health and safety Due Diligence training for our executive and board members focussing on their obligation to get out and about and understand their business and this also allows our executive to interact with our young workers in the field through their safety walks. We developed an industry first training in combining neurological brain mapping signs with safety cultural development techniques to form a Safety Leadership Program.  The program has two levels.  A master class for all executive and managers and a safety leadership foundation program for all frontline managers.

      Slide 45

      Joe:  The significant shift Seqwater has had could not have occurred if we didn’t have the vital support of our Executive Leadership team, CEO and Board. There were certainly other cheaper ways of dealing with our incident, and proudly Seqwater chose to take the long route, to-date spending in excess of $2 million dollars on changing our business, and I am sure you will agree, it was and is a very wise investment in our culture, business, our people and most importantly our future leaders. Seqwater has, like many other businesses an aging workforce, the importance of succession planning and backing our young workers is paramount to us and is a critical component of our overall talent management program. Without providing a safe work place, we will not be able to retain our young workers and make Seqwater an attractive business for them to eventually become our next group of business leaders.

      Slide 46

      Joe:  I would like to share with you a EU report extract from our then second year apprentice Sam who was at the centre of ‘Our Incident’.

      Sam says “Receiving the electric shock has changed my life, now as a qualified electrician, the safety systems I relied upon as an apprentice are now my responsibility to uphold and ensure that if I ever have an apprentice working for me that he or she will always be able to go home, in line with our ‘work safe, home safe’ motto. While the incident that led to me receiving the electric shock should never have occurred, the changes that have been made within Seqwater as a result of the incident have been pleasing to observe, and of which I am proud to have been a part of.”

      Sam has not only gone on to become a fantastic electrician, he has only recently volunteered to be the Health and Safety Representative for his region, and is a proud demonstration of how far Seqwater has come as a business.

      I would like to thank Work Health and Safety Queensland for inviting me to speak with you all today, and I hope Seqwater's journey will inspire other business to learn from us and to make the transformational changes required within your businesses before an incident occurs. I look forward to any questions you might have shortly.  Thank you Melanie.

      Melanie:  Fantastic, thank you Joe.  That was some very inspiring information and some great improvement plans and incentives that you put into the business at Seqwater.

      Slide 47

      Melanie:  I’ve had a few questions come through.  The first one I’m going to put through over to Elliot.  Elliot why should young workers be treated any differently to other workers?

      Elliot: I think it’s a case of understanding the workforce and young workers is one segment of the workforce and it’s looking at safety being a people centred approach.  It’s that old saying that the system should serve the people rather than the people serve the system. I think part of that is understanding the people that are involved.  Just like any other worker inside the business it’s important to understand them to be able to influence their behaviour and for young workers there are some unique characteristics that we went through today.  There’s a lot more around the psychology of what drives their behaviour and their attitudes and understanding those and applying those to influencing their behaviour I think really goes a long way to being able to have a positive relationship and support them in being safe at work.

      Melanie: Fantastic, thank you Elliot.  I know Joe we’ve got some questions about your presentation being available on the website which it will be after today, so we’ll get that out to all of the attendees.  But what has interested people is did you find through your own experiences at Seqwater that young people ever abused this power to speak up or use it in the wrong way at all?

      Joe:  Fortunately enough no, we actually haven’t had that experience.  I guess it comes back to the relationship between the supervisor or the leader in charge of our young workers at the time and that important bond that they must have.  From our experience we haven’t experienced that from our youth workers at all.  If anything, we’ve found the supervisors have been quite open to the queries and questions that the youth workers have put out there.  And dare I say it have learnt a little themselves.

      Melanie:  Okay, excellent, thank you. So Elliot what can we do if we don’t have the resources to implement a program that aims to improve the safety of young workers?  What other options can workplace health and safety assist with?

      Elliot:  I think Joe’s example was – you know the reach target the long term target that requires a bit of investment but I think engaging with young people around safety doesn’t require formal training, formal development programs.  Really to begin or commence work it’s about establishing those relationships, getting to know young people, providing opportunities for them to have involvement and input and ask questions and provide feedback and really I guess developing those relationships between the people that deal with them and supervise them every day. That’s the place to start and you know that’s the start of the journey and you can work towards the types of changes that Joe’s business has made but I think the real investment is around those relationships between the supervisors that work frontline, co-workers and young workers themselves.

      Melanie:  Joe have you noticed any pushback from supervisors who thought they did okay with Gen‑Y and Gen-X and should be okay?  And how did you manage that from the supervisor / manager level?

      Joe:  I think the good thing about that is we were able to sort of demystify that through our safety leadership program using that brain mapping science and also the cultural development techniques within the training. So we got a lot of those questions out of the way within the training that we provided.  It’s at that point that the supervisors were I guess able to be challenged about their views and it’s always been done this way, culture that may have existed in pockets.  We were able to actively challenge it there so when they were going out with their youth workers, they had a far more open mind and realised that young workers can bring innovation to a business and the way that you’ve done something for 20 years mightn’t actually be the most efficient or smartest way going forward due to new technology, advancement in various fields.  So we handled a lot of those issues in the training room when we confronted their personality traits as part of the training.

      Melanie:  There’s quite a few questions coming through about how did you measure the effectiveness now? Is it a dollar value that you’ve been able to put on it? Were there some lead indicators versus the lag ones? So dollars versus lead indicators. Is there some measurements that you’ve been able to share with us at all that are effective?

      Joe:  Certainly with some of our matrix, as I stated earlier we’re very heavily focussed on our leading indicators, so we have a large amount of hazards and near misses being reported actively. We also can measure who’s sent those in. We don’t at this stage divide it into young workers or mature workers, but we can tell also that we’re not injuring people compared to what we used to. So our injury frequency rate is the lowest its ever been in Seqwater.  But importantly, we’re getting those hazards and near misses reported through like we’ve never had before.  Dollars and cents wise, Seqwater’s been quite fortunate to be able to defy the industry premium rate for our type of business and we are 22 cents per $100 of wages compared to other businesses that we are in the same realm of at about 76 cents per $100 of wages. So we’re very, very fortunate in that aspect as well. It really is our leading indicators that are showing us its working and our ‘Speak up’ message is very, very strong.

      Melanie:  Excellent, thank you. I know we’ve been talking about young workers today, but could this program and some of the initiatives work for other cohorts in the workplace? Elliot, for example you know engaging new workers or also looking at older workers?

      Elliot:  Absolutely, I think that the key messages out of today particularly work design – good work design, effective inductions, supervision and feedback, support, mentoring and developing a positive workplace culture. They’re just as important for the rest of the workforce. I think what we’ve talked about is really understanding that these young people have a unique set of characteristics that can influence their behaviour, it’s understanding those.  But part of that is just again establishing a relationship with a younger worker and allowing them to engage with the business. I think that the key messages really are applicable to any worker and just as important for the whole workforce as they are for young people. 

      Slide 48

      Melanie:  Excellent, thank you. So there’s been a few questions also on what other further webinars are available and we do have the recording and the presentation slides will be up on the www.worksafe.qld.gov.au website in the coming weeks. There were some additional questions, so we will work on getting this out to everybody. So today if your question hasn’t been answered in detail, we will make sure that we get this information out to you. To keep you updated we do have a Young worker ‘mind and body’ webinar coming up on Thursday the 9th of July from 12-1pm. Registrations will be available through the Events section on website – worksafe.qld.gov.au.

      Also Elliot, there was a question on contacting you, so there is the SafetyLeadership@justice.qld.gov.au email address and your email address Elliot.Parkinson@justice.qld.gov.au.

      Elliot:  We will send an email out and all of our contact addresses will be detailed for the Pilot Program.

      Melanie:  Fantastic, so thank you again to everyone for your participation in the webinar. We really welcome any feedback on today’s session or suggestions for topics or formats for future sessions. So there will be a short survey that will pop up at the end of the webinar and it will give you the opportunity to provide feedback or suggestions on today’s session or future sessions and also the contact details that Elliot spelt out and the email that will follow shortly. So thank you again and good afternoon.

Post webinar questions and answers not addressed by webinar content are listed below:

Answered by Elliot Parkinson, WHSQ:

  • Does WHSQ have any incident statistics associated with new workers?
    • Young workers comprise 17.9 per cent of all accepted workers' compensation claims in Queensland and represent 17.3 per cent of the workforce.
    • Based on all accepted workers' compensation claims, there are approximately 15,300 (one in 25) young workers injured and 4,400 (one in one hundred) seriously injured each year.
  • What about smaller businesses who are not able to provide the same level of support?
    • The most effective way to support a young worker to stay safe at work is by creating a good relationship between them and their direct supervisor or manager. Research shows that young workers who have a more positive interaction with their supervisors are less likely to be injured at work.
    • Whilst formal training and development programs requiring significant investment can help increase the skills of young workers, simple and inexpensive efforts should be a priority, for example prioritising the safety of young workers, providing an appropriate level of supervision, ensuring open communication, providing regular feedback and a commitment to learning.

Answered by Joe Meissner, Seqwater:

  • Do you find that young people abuse the power to speak up?
    • Not in my experience, mainly because we focus on the relationship development between the young worker and their supervisor. Also, with the change in our WHS culture, our leaders are more aware of their role in safety and how their leadership can directly influence the health and safety of young workers.
  • Has Joe noticed any push back from supervisors who thought they did okay, so Generation X / Y should be okay and how did he manage that?
    • Through targeted awareness programs showing the science behind the risk interpretation of young workers. This was a great way to deliver as we have a large engineering, science and trades based staff. We also unpacked the culture in getting the leaders to share what was acceptable 'in their day' and why it's not acceptable today and how a serious injury to a young worker they are responsible for would make them feel. Ultimately we found that they know what's required and following processes and procedures is the right thing to do in a safe and modern work environment.
  • How do you measure your effectiveness now? Do you use lead indicators rather than lag ones?
    • We do use lead indicators, our 'Speak up' message is reported through a version of Byrd's pyramid in that we represent our lead and lag indicators this way. It is an easy to digest, visual way of showing the ratio of how we are preventing injuries and identifying hazards in our workplace. We do report on lag indicators such as LTIFR (lost time injury frequency rate) and SIFR (significant injury frequency rate) as well as corrective actions closed etc. we went from only one reported metric (LTIFR) to now at minimum reporting 12 major metrics.
  • How much money have you saved in relation to claim costs since implementing the program?
    • We have a very low industry premium rate versus the gazetted rate e.g. we pay $0.22/ $100 in wages compared to the industry rate of $0.97 /$100 in wages. We are defying the industry rate rises and CPI and very few, if any, current common law claims.

For more information on young workers, visit the Safety Leadership at Work page on our website.

Last updated
13 August 2015

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