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Scentre Group: From little things, big things grow

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Scentre Group is the owner and operator of Australia and New Zealand's largest shopping centre portfolio, Westfield.

During 2015 and 2016, the Westfield North Lakes design and construction team, extended their 'people protecting people' safety ethos to introduce a health and wellbeing program. The program was designed to maintain and improve the health of office staff, site staff and contractors. Over the two years, more than 6600 workers took part in various program strategies with around 500 workers still actively participating in at least one activity. The success of this initiative has helped Scentre Group to develop a mental health and wellbeing policy, which is shared across its Australian worksites.

How it began

With support from management, all staff completed the Healthy people survey to help assess their health and wellbeing needs. The results showed that more than 20 per cent of respondents wanted to increase their physical activity, 10 per cent wanted to know how to eat healthier and a further 10 per cent wanted help to quit smoking.

Based on the results of the survey the program focused on: smoking, mental health, healthy eating, physical activity and sun safety.

How Scentre Group addressed the risk factors

Since the inception of the health and wellbeing program at Scentre Group, 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.


As well as having designated no-smoking areas, Scentre Group subscribed to the Queensland Workplace Quit Smoking Program which offers support to workers who smoke and are interested in stopping. Workers received 'quit' resources, regular counselling support from the Quitline, and free nicotine replacement therapy products over a 12 week period. There were 14 workers who signed up to the program within the first four weeks and this number continues to grow. One contractor team of six had five members who smoked and have now quit. One non-smoker commented that since his work mates have stopped smoking, not only has his working environment improved, but the relationship between the team has also improved. The Workplace Quit Smoking Program is now being offered to all Queensland Scentre Group employees and contractors.

Mental health

Workers in the team were offered MATES in Construction training which raises awareness to help reduce suicide amongst Australian construction workers. The MATES in Construction program was promoted to all workers on site via toolbox talks, posters, project newsletters and regular attendance on site by MATES in Construction representatives.

More than 300 workers completed the training over three sessions and 40 workers went further to complete the Connector training sessions. A connector is someone who is readily accessible by workers within the workplace and who is trained to keep anyone in crisis safe, while at the same time connecting them to professional help. Since the training, a number of workers have approached connectors for support. Now the Scentre Group's mental health and wellness policy is being actively promoted to staff, along with the Employee Assistance Program via the company intranet, brochures and posters. Scentre Group are now an accredited partner with MATES in Construction and the service is offered to all workers and contractors within Scentre Group in Australia.

Healthy eating

Scentre Group made a number of changes to encourage healthy eating choices. A very popular initiative with workers was the review of food within onsite vending machines. Now healthier options are available to replace some of the high fat options. Negotiations were undertaken with local healthy fast food outlets to introduce healthy Tradie meal deals for Scentre Group workers. Fruit, wholemeal bread and water were also introduced at workers' BBQs. Popcorn proved to be a popular healthy option in the vending machines, and apples and bananas were popular at the BBQs.

Physical activity

In October each year Scentre Group divisions compete in a team challenge to raise the awareness of the health benefits of undertaking regular physical activity and create some healthy fun. Teams of 10 from across Scentre Group nationally competed to see which team walked the furthest around the world. Teams logged their steps daily, using smart phones and pedometers. In 2016 there were 380 participants who took over 105 million steps over the four week BUPA Challenge.

Scentre Group staff were also offered biweekly group personal training sessions for a gold coin donation to the team's chosen charity. A team of 15 staff commenced personal training sessions in July 2016. The pre and post fitness tests showed that all 15 staff had improved their physical fitness after only four weeks.

Safe Work Week events

Scentre Group also ran numerous health and wellbeing events during Safe Work Month in October 2015 and 2016. Scentre Group office staff, impairment officers, contractors and their employees, union representatives and workplace health and safety representatives were onsite to talk to workers and to discuss topics such as mental health, healthy eating, asbestos awareness, manual handling, first aid, and sun safety.

In 2015, 'Danger sun overhead' education sessions were followed by skin checks for Scentre Group staff. This activity was repeated in 2016 with 40 staff members completing an initial skin check, and 16 of them doing further checks and medical interventions. This was the first time 11 staff members had ever had a skin check with four of them considered to be in a high risk category.

Free fruit and water, along with a range of pamphlets on health, safety and wellbeing were provided each day. Feedback from workers was collected via a suggestion box to assist Scentre Group continually improve health, safety and wellbeing on site. The healthy lunch provided on the last day for all workers was extremely popular and another opportunity to showcase healthy lifestyle behaviours.

Key learnings

Management commitment was critical to the success of the program. A working group was established that included project management and health and safety representatives. A budget was allocated to support the activities. A short film on the North Lakes health and wellbeing program has been created to ensure an ongoing commitment for health and wellness and to show other workers what the benefits were for North Lakes staff.

Consultation and communication with staff via meetings, displays, newsletters, notices/flyers and emails was essential. Feedback showed that workers appreciated the opportunity to have input into the positive culture being set on site.

Planning helped ensure all the activities remained on target and within budget.

Evaluation of the short term program outcomes showed it met all the set targets. Longer term evaluation is still in progress, however, injury rates at the North Lakes construction site were substantially lower than those seen at other construction sites.

Donny Carroll, Queensland's Regional Risk Manager for Design and Construction has been involved in the program from the start. He's learnt that the benefits from complementary health, safety and wellbeing strategies out-weigh the implementation costs to the business.

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: