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Mitchell Services

Category six – Best demonstrated leadership in work health and safety

Mitchell Services is a drilling contractor in the mining and energy industries.

In the fourth quarter of the previous two years, Mitchell Services experienced its highest number of injuries and the highest injury severity. The company recognised that recent market expansion and growth in employee numbers had increased its risk profile.

Operation Homestretch was developed and implemented to reduce the number of injuries and the injury severity during the last quarter of the year, a traditionally high-risk period.

Challenges included an unsatisfactory record of safety performance during the target period, a highly regulated working environment, client requirements, a geographically diverse workforce and a work environment saturated in negative safety messaging.

Operation Homestretch is a practical application of the concepts of 'Safety differently' published by Sidney Dekker. It promotes a culture of investigating successes rather than failures, and looking objectively, rather than critically, at why work was carried out differently from the plan.

From December 2016 to December 2017, Mitchell Services' all injury frequency rate decreased by 48 per cent and its total recordable injury frequency rate decreased by 58 per cent.

Mitchell Services
Mitchell Services

Andrew Elf:

Mitchell Services is a ASX listed company. We've got over 350 employees. It doesn't matter what company you are, it should be operating safely but certainly at Mitchell Services it's all about our people. I think we've come a long way as a team and as business over the last five or so years, and over that time our incident severity has reduced, our incident occurrence has reduced, and it's a credit to Josh and his team.

Josh Bryan:

The end of year is usually a high risk time of year, and that's where everyone focuses on everything that went wrong throughout the year. We actually turned that on its head and focused on what are the things that we did right.

6,000 shifts where we had no injuries at all, compared to the five that we did. So we've learned from those five injuries, but what about the 6,000 times where everything went right?

A Home Stretch program consists of a number of areas. It started with leaders going out in the field and introducing the concepts of safety differently, and encouraging the workforce to tell us about how you deal with variability. We changed our pre-shift meetings so that we would talk about, okay, what changed yesterday and how did you deal with it? Another thing was the Our People, Our Solutions initiative where we encourage the workforce to come up with ideas to make their workplace better and then we created crew chats, which was about humanizing our workforce. That we're all from different backgrounds and that we're a growing business. So we've got employees scattered all around Australia and they've all got different personalities, but the one thing that brings us together is that we all work for Mitchell Services.

Safety can be measured in the absence of something or it can be the presence of something. For us our injury frequency rate dropped by 60%. The rate of injuries or the amount of injuries dropped by 40%, but our focus was more on let's learn from our workforce and let's make this a better place to work and a safer place to work.

Andrew Elf:

The most important thing for me with the initiative is that everybody got to go home safely. That's the most important thing to me, is to see my family and I want everyone that works for us, regardless of what they're doing, to do the same.

Josh Bryan:

I've actually been able to make a change to the people that work for Mitchell Services, and actually apply concepts that are very different to traditional safety and we've been able to make them work.