Category four – Most significant improvement to work health and safety performance
Townsville City Council (TCC) employs approximately 1700 workers who perform over 800 different roles across 40 locations—each with different risk profiles. Sensing an overall disengagement with workplace safety throughout the organisation, TCC conducted a review of their communication and consultation processes to see if they could identify the root causes of the missed and inconsistent messaging.
TCC's review identified multiple communications and messaging issues including inconsistent dissemination of information at meetings and/or toolbox talks, that email notifications were not reaching all workers since many had limited access to a workplace computer and didn't check emails frequently, and that contractors were not receiving all information.
In response, TCC introduced an online contractor management system that requires companies to be approved to work at TCC and adhere to requirements to be considered. Once a contractor becomes compliant, information about them is entered into the TCC system with all required documentation to ensure that messages and communications are sent and received. The new system also facilitates collaboration with workers, leaders, health and safety representatives and the community and is supported by senior leaders at TCC and 70 elected health and safety representatives.
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So here at Townsville City Council, we have around about 1,800 workers. On top of that, we also have 1,000 contracting companies, which equates to roughly about 2,500 contract workers.
So, the problem we identified, and based on feedback from our workers and our contractors, is that the messaging that they were receiving was inconsistent across the board. There were critical safety messages not being received by everybody in the business.
The biggest thing that we did, and we should do in safety is consultation. So, we consulted with our contractors. We consulted with our workers through our health and safety representatives. Some of the things that we found as critical improvements to how we do things is that we have a monthly toolbox. And the safety team put that together, but it's from messaging that we've received over the last month.
It's applicable to everybody across the council. It's also forced teams to come together mandatorily every month to actually have a team meeting. And that's about safety culture and team culture and getting consistent safety messaging across the business.
We also have a health and safety representative working group, which sees 80 of our health and safety representatives attend quarterly. So, we come together on a quarterly basis, and we discuss everything related to safety.
Each month, we have a monthly toolbox where I get a message to deliver from the safety team. This then gives my crew an opportunity to raise any direct concerns they have to me and management.
And then as a rep, it's my job to bring back anything from our joint HSR rep meetings towards the crews that aren't included in the toolbox. It gives the crews a chance to speak directly to me and management so that they feel more engaged in our safety process then.
We've seen our reporting culture increase. But also, our LTIs and MTIs decrease rapidly as well. That's been the big thing over the last year and a half is the decrease in LTIs. The other thing that we introduced as well is that we have around about 1,000 contracting companies that work for council, which equates to around about 2,500 workers.
So, the most important thing to support our local community is that we've introduced doing business with council. And part of that is where contractors can reach out to the safety team to seek safety advice and how they can come on board to work with us.
One of the biggest improvements and the biggest commitments I've seen from safety is from our CEO, Prins Ralston. So, three years ago when Prins started with us, he actually changed our values, which put safety as our first value.
And the fact that there is that genuine commitment from our CEO helps it just become, it becomes part of our culture, part of our DNA every day that we're here. I think what we don't hear anymore is we don't hear that feedback where people are not receiving messages.
They actually look for that toolbox to see if there's some messaging that they have missed. So it's available whenever they want. Because those toolboxes are now delivered by our leaders in the business and not the safety team, is it demonstrates the leader's commitment to safety as well.
So that's the key message, is that we're all invested in safety. You don't have to be part of the safety team to be invested in safety.