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Laurel Johnson – Simonds Homes Pty Ltd

Nationally active and recognised in the construction industry, Laurel Johnson has built a strong record as a leader, innovator, and champion for her wide-ranging work in promoting and driving safety culture.

Working for Simonds Homes, Laurel is the National Work Health Safety Manager. Simmonds builds 2500 homes a year, uses over 800 sub-contracting companies and have reduced their lost-time injury frequency rate from 4.1 to 1.0 over the last three years.

Laurel works to improve the safety approach of the volume housing sector of the construction industry, sitting on a number of boards and sharing process and communication innovations freely. Her major achievements include an overhaul of the 'Linksafe portal' improving basic compliance of all sub-contractors on all sites, and introducing the 24 hour safety line within the company (ensuring that any worker, at any level, on any site in any state can raise a safety issue or get a safety question answered).

A key element of her success is her dedication to consultation at all levels of the organisation and consistent, clear communication. Her communication ranges from briefings with the CEO and Board through to being the single point of contact for all contractors, including the 24/7 safety line within the company.

Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 287MB)

Laurel Johnson:

Simonds Home builds residential properties all over Australia. We build approximately two and a half thousand home a year. We have about seven or eight hundred employees. It's a flexible workforce and we probably have about a thousand subcontractors working for us, as well. When I first started, contractor management was a huge issue. We had different teams doing different things so it was really important to us that we were able to give the contractors clear guidance and expectations and make them feel like they were part of our team as well. We found an off the shelf product called LinkSafe and we worked very closely with the developer to make it very user friendly for the residential sector.

It's an online portal where trades who are wanting to work for Simonds can register. Once they're accepted, they can induct their staff and they have a line of sight on whose license has expired, whose insurances have expired, and it prompts them to be able to keep all that information up to date. We also developed a QR code for incident and hazard reporting that appears on our site signs and in all our offices. Anyone can come up, scan the code, and make an instant report. That goes directly to me and we like to call them back personally. If a small subcontractor gets a call from the head of health and safety team, the personal touch is what we're really proud of.

Simonds upper management were aware there was a gap and when we came up with this solution, they were very enthusiastic about taking it on. We worked really hard with them, but also with their staff and subcontractors to make it work. They were all stakeholders in the process and we wanted them to have buy in and we wanted them to be heard when we were doing the development. Queensland Home Builders Safety Alliance is a networking group of some of the major home builders in Queensland. We're really proud to be part of that group. We're all competitors in the industry, but we like to network and share ideas because it makes our industry better.

I love my job. I love the fact that we've gone from a culture where everybody expects they have to fill out a bit of paper because there's been an incident or a hazard to the personal touch where they can ring and they can talk it through with us, and they know who we are, and we become part of their work force as much as ours. I find that incredibly rewarding.