With the 2022 Safe Work Awards opening soon and businesses continuing to navigate through the COVID pandemic, workplaces looking for inspiration can revisit initiatives undertaken by a leading cattle and beef producer and winner of a major 2021 award.
ACC took out Best demonstrated leadership in work health and safety award in the 2021 Queensland Safe Work and Return to Work Awards for its initiatives in dealing with COVID-19. The pandemic’s impact on the meat processing industry extends from the health and wellbeing of employees, to staff in rural and remote locations being isolated by lockdowns, through to the commercial impact on the supply chain, from farms, to domestic and export freight, as well as the challenges of maintaining continuity through to retailers and customers.
ACC’s initial response to COVID-19 was focussed on two challenges:
- The health, safety, and wellbeing of employees:
- high volumes of people, in close proximity to each other
- culturally diverse and multi-lingual workforce
- concern for employee’s mental health
- Maintaining operational continuity:
- labour contingency
- safely continuing to supply
- business continuity plans including animal welfare.
A thorough and systematic risk assessment led to the implementation of several innovative control strategies at all levels of the hierarchy of control. Strategies included:
- work design changes (adding individual partitions and seating in lunchrooms)
- paying absences for staff who may have been a contact to encourage self-isolation
- developing reusable and launderable balaclavas
- specialised messaging for social distancing - ‘stay one-cow-length’ apart
- using sign language instead of shouting to limit air droplet spread
- mock emergency responses to test their ability to track and trace a case of COVID.
Announcements were regularly communicated with staff through toolbox talks, text, lunchroom TVs, posters, emails and ad-hoc meetings across all levels.
The ACC response spanned the entire workforce and there are ongoing benefits. The accelerated use of digital technology is proving to be time and cost effective, there’s much better preparedness for bio security threats, and increased engagement, trust and disclosure with staff.
This year’s Safe Work and Return to Work Awards launch 14 March 2022 – get your entries ready!