In July 2010, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) and WorkCover Queensland introduced the Injury Prevention and Management program (IPaM) designed to help businesses develop better workplace health, safety and injury management systems.
Now employers who participated in IPaM are beginning to see real results.
In 2011, mining and minerals exploration company, 'Drill Engineering and Pastoral Co '(DEPCO), were invited to participate in the program.
Water boring company DEPCO Drilling expanded into mining and mineral exploration in 1992. DEPCO has 33 drilling rigs and employs 168 people across Queensland and New South Wales.
Work health and safety challenges
DEPCO faced three key work health and safety challenges.
Rapid business growth
Due to the recent mining boom, DEPCO grew significantly in a short period of time. The rapid growth of the company was outpacing the development of its safety and injury management systems.
Workers' compensation claims
Prior to participating in IPaM, DEPCO had experienced a high number of workers' compensation statutory claims as well as two high cost common law claims.
Return to work programs
Due to the drive in/fly in nature of the mining industry, DEPCO had been hampered in their efforts to have workers return to work on suitable duties at the earliest opportunity. Evidence indicates that returning to work as early as possible improves the likelihood of return to pre-injury duties and successful and sustained recovery from injury.
Safety review process
The IPaM advisor allocated to DEPCO worked collaboratively with the business in conjunction with a WorkCover Customer Advisor. With the help of the advisor, the business set out activities and milestones for improving safety and injury management systems.
Safety coordinator Venette Trout said, 'The program has provided the company with short term and long term goals, which are and have been attainable, and within an approachable timeframe'.
The program went for over 12 months. Consultation was an essential part of this process, with employees at all levels involved, including the director, the operations manager, safety team members, the training team, supervisors and workers.
DEPCO completed a:
- safety systems assessment, to identify gaps in their safety and injury management systems and opportunities for improvement
- hazard assessment, to find things and situations that could potentially cause harm. DEPCO then referred to relevant Codes of Practice for guidance on managing these hazards
- business improvement plan, which set out activities and milestones for improving their safety systems, and assigned responsibility to management and relevant employees
- safety climate survey, which surveyed workers at all levels to determine the organisation's collective safety practices and beliefs.
The specific areas requiring attention were identified, including; consultation/participation, traffic management, working at heights and rehabilitation and return to work processes.
Based on their Business Improvement Plan, DEPCO implemented the following:
- Management commitment to injury prevention and management was promoted to all levels of the organisation. The director and operations manager were actively involved in establishing and attending monthly safety meetings, which were also attended by the safety team, supervisors and workers.
- A new training and induction program was developed in line with changes in work health and safety legislation and DEPCO's updated safe work procedures. To improve worker engagement, the induction program was designed to be interactive and practical.
- A traffic management plan was developed and speed limits were enforced within the workplace.
- Safety rails were designed, manufactured and fitted to the masts of the rigs to manage the risk of falls from height while workers carry out maintenance.
- Safe work procedures were developed for working on the masts of rigs.
- Pedestrian walkways and specific work areas were defined with line markings.
- Workers participated in a consultation and improvement process for the equipment yard and as a result, a parking system was put in place that reduced congestion in the yard and improved productivity.
- DEPCO improved its return to work processes by making online training and assessment available for injured workers who were unable to complete their regular duties on the mine site.
- Workers were encouraged to maintain regular contact with injured colleagues, including telephone contact during their work shifts.
IPaM reinforced the need for all DEPCO workers to work together as a team, resulting in stronger relationships between all workers within the organisation.
Venette Trout said the organisation's safety culture has greatly improved as people become more aware of safety in the workplace. 'Workers are now more willing to talk about or report an incident, and are more aware of safety, which is a major benefit to the company,' she said.
DEPCO has seen a reduction in claim duration and costs, which has impacted positively on their WorkCover premium.
For the 200 employers who have been actively involved with IPaM during 2011-2012, preliminary results have identified some encouraging trends:
- Positive changes in statutory claims outcomes in the past year with the average claim costs decreasing by 24%.
- Final return to work outcomes have improved.
- Total statutory claims costs of the combined participants reduced by $2.2M in the first year.