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Sharon Vandermaat, City of Gold Coast Council, Gold Coast

Category eight – Best demonstrated leadership in work health and safety

Sharon led the implementation of the PErforM program in the maintenance branch at City of Gold Coast Council (CGCC). This branch has over 580 staff working across road works, parks and building maintenance and city cleaning.

Sharon uses a participative and proactive approach that enables her workers to solve their health and safety problems by embedding a clear framework into work health and safety systems, gaining management commitment, establishing clear communication and engaging with the workforce. Sharon's communication, commitment and passion are key elements to her work.

As a result of Sharon's leadership and excellent interpersonal skills, the PErforM program in CGCC has been hugely successful. CGCC reports a 50 per cent reduction in manual handling injuries, a reduction in the cost of claims and the lost time injury frequency rate. Since the success in the city maintenance branch, other areas of CGCC have contacted Sharon to share her knowledge and provide guidance to them in implementing the program.

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On screen text

Sharon Vandermaat, City of Gold Coast Council - Safe Work and Return to Work Awards 2016

My name is Sharon Vandermaat. I'm the Business Compliance Facilitator for the City of Gold Coast, and I work within the City Maintenance Branch.

We were having a lot of manual handling type injuries within our branch. Our worker's compensation claims, and days lost due injury were steadily increasing. We needed to look at something to put into place to get that under control. The initiative that I put in place within City Maintenance was the PErforM program, which is Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks. Our PErforM facilitators take a risk assessment form out into the field, and they observe the task being undertaken while asking the workers about the forces and pressures they're feeling on their body. From that, they use the hierarchy of control to consider whether that task can be eliminated or put controls in place to reduce the risk of injury.

A senior management team was involved in the initiative. They've been fully supportive right from the beginning. Initially some of the line mangers were a little sceptical, but once the program began and they saw the results that were being achieved, they came on board quickly and have been fully supportive.

I felt a real shift in the culture really early on when we had our first big win with one of our crews. They had several musculoskeletal injuries, and asked us to have a look at their equipment and setup. Once we had resolved those issues with them, the flood gates opened. We received lots of enquiries, and from there the program just took off.

My advice to other industries or work places that are looking to implement PErforM, would be try and embed it into your risk management system. Then it's not seen my management as something else that they have to do. For the workers, it assures them that their issues and concerns are going to be followed through and looked at.

I find my roll so rewarding in that I've been able to put things in place to reduce the number of injuries to our workers, which ultimately is what we all want is to make sure that our workers go home each night safe and well. That is the greatest reward there is.RUN TIME: 2 min 26 sec