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Carlton and United Breweries: A targeted approach

Carlton & United Breweries logo

Carlton and United Breweries (CUB) at Yatala opened in 1987 and forms part of the SABMiller group. CUB produces and packages a range of beers, ciders and spirits at the Yatala brewery.

Identifying health and wellbeing priorities

The CUB workforce is made up of around 280 full time workers who perform a range of tasks that require varying levels of exertion. The majority of the workforce is male, blue-collared, with an average age of 47 and an average of 15 years' service.

Along with this demographic data, CUB uses information collected from its annual culture survey to identify the health and wellbeing priorities of staff. Some of the findings include that:

  • male staff have more chronic disease risks and are less likely to seek medical care, health advice and information
  • blue-collar workers tend to have higher rates of chronic disease compared to their white-collar counterparts
  • long-serving workers may have imbedded ideas about 'doing things the way they have always done them' and can be unreceptive to change
  • given the diversity of physically demanding and sedentary tasks involved in production and packaging, it is important to manage the risk of musculoskeletal injury.

The program

From the information collected in the culture survey and the identified demographic risk factors, CUB focused its health and wellbeing program on three areas.

  1. Metabolic syndrome (the name for a group of diseases that have common risk factors, including heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease and other chronic diseases). Activities that addressed this issue included:
    • cholesterol and blood sugar level screening
    • liver and kidney function tests
    • provision of healthier choices in the canteen and heavily subsidised healthy meals.
  2. Injury prevention and rehabilitation. Activities that addressed this issue included:
    • a weekly onsite physiotherapy service at which the physiotherapist:
      • met every new employee as part of the employee induction process
      • identified ways to minimise the risk of musculoskeletal injury for certain job tasks
      • assisted with the development of job task analysis
      • completed ergonomic assessments, and biomechanical assessments, particularly for planning return to work for injured employees, and for preparation of job task diaries
    • a podiatry service, including:
      • consultations and treatments
      • boots and orthotics paid for by CUB.
  3. Mental health. Activities that addressed this issue included:
    • an employee assistance program (free confidential counselling)
    • a strong manager support program which included compulsory manager training. This gave managers the skills to identify and respond to employees who disclose any physical, mental, personal or emotional issues they may be experiencing, and refer the employee to the relevant area for assistance.

Results - A change in attitudes and big returns

Since the inception of the health and wellbeing program at CUB, the value of health and wellbeing in the workplace has been recognised as integral to assisting with increased employee engagement and morale, and encouraging health seeking behaviour.

Management understands the importance of taking a holistic approach to health and wellbeing and recognising how home life can influence work. For example, should a worker sustain an injury unrelated to work, they can still receive free, uncapped treatment sessions with the physiotherapist during work time. This 'no blame' approach fosters a proactive, positive culture which has built trust across the working group.

In addition to these benefits, there has been a significant decrease in injuries and associated costs. The long term injury frequency rate has fallen from approximately 60 in 1997 to less than 3 in 2015. The WorkCover Queensland premium is less than half the industry rate, saving CUB $250,000 per year.

The CUB program has been successful for a number of reasons.

  • Management commitment is strong—a budget is provided for health and wellbeing and work time is given for workers and managers to participate in the programs.
  • Regular communication—surveying workers has helped CUB understand the priorities and needs of the workforce.
  • Good planning—CUB has a dedicated health and wellbeing coordinator who rosters activities over the year to ensure there is not an ad-hoc, unsustainable approach.
  • Good evaluation—analysing WorkCover Queensland data has helped build the business case for continued health and wellbeing programs.
  • Health and wellbeing is integrated into the everyday business at CUB.

Gathering evidence and feedback has been essential to shaping CUB's targeted health and wellbeing program and allowing it to evolve as the needs of the workforce change.

Key learnings

  1. Management buy-in is critical. Promote the benefits, start small and choose programs with a big impact. You will not get the return on investment CUB has unless your managers believe in the health program and encourage workers to use it in work time.
  2. Promote and encourage 'health seeking behaviours' in workers. Provide information that is valuable in an environment where people can relax. Lunchtime seminars and healthy barbeques worked well for CUB.
  3. Don't be discouraged by poor results – think outside the box. For example, initially at CUB, bowel cancer kits were made available but had low uptake. The simple act of putting them in a discreet bag, and placing them in the bathroom helped with uptake.
  4. Return on investment takes time. Changing culture and attitudes in the workplace can take time. Keep track of small wins to keep you and your staff motivated and on track.

More information

Preventing illness and injury is an investment in your workforce. Find out what your organisation can do to improve health and wellbeing in your workplace: