'Get on board and take the journey. You don't know what you don't know so get involved – you will learn something!'
For SEE Civil's Group WHS Manager, Dean Ellis, being open minded about new approaches to injury prevention and management was the driving force behind participating in the Injury Prevention and Management (IPaM) program.
An Australian-owned civil construction company, SEE Civil was already making positive strides toward achieving a sound safety record in 2016, reducing workplace injuries from a total recordable injury frequency rate of 29 to six in 12 months against the backdrop of a doubling in turnover.
However, at the time its safety culture was not consistent with attitudes differing from worksite to worksite and largely dependent on the leadership style and safety standards of the relevant project manager.
The organisation's strategy for resourcing return to work was limited; comprising a centrally located Return to Work Manager with no effective means of support to help manage the provision of suitable duties for workers in the field.
Not satisfied with SEE Civil's safety performance, Dean Ellis proactively sought the guidance of the IPaM program in early 2017 with the intent of sharing industry best practice approaches to injury prevention and management.
'I took the view that we had nothing to lose by participating, but potentially plenty to learn,' Dean said.
On entering the IPaM program, SEE Civil were allocated a dedicated IPaM Advisor, Richard Taylor, who facilitated a number of surveys and a health and safety gap analysis to assess the organisation's safety climate and culture and the effectiveness of its health, safety and return to work systems.
'The time Richard invested in building a good working relationship with members of the SEE Civil's management team was a key reason why our IPaM journey has been such a success,' Dean said.
Areas for improvement included updating and embedding SEE Civil's return to work system into its overall safety system.
A key focus of this initiative was conducting industry research into what best practice return to work systems look like. For SEE Civil's Dean Ellis, the organisation's first eureka moment arrived when they could see the benefits of early return to work and recovering at work.
'Workers simply returned to pre-injury duties sooner when they recovered at work with the support of their co-workers and supervisor,' Dean said.
A wide cross section of SEE Civil's employees collaborated to develop the organisation's Return to Work: Recover at Work procedure, ensuring it was robust enough to support a geographically dispersed workforce and the varied on-site working conditions they face.
SEE Civil has now significantly strengthened its operational support for return to work, employing a team of eight formally trained return to work coordinators (six field-based) strategically led by a Return to Work Manager.
Each worksite is now equipped with an information pack containing job task analysis descriptions which can help treating medical practitioners make informed decisions about suitable duties which can support return to work.
SEE Civil's return to work performance has improved markedly since completing IPaM in 2018. Its WorkCover premium rate is now half that of the industry average at only 1.01% of its wages bill, representing a saving of around $150,000 per year.
Injury claims have reduced by over 66%, stay at work rates have improved from 50% to 100% and average monthly claim costs have also reduced by 94% during this period.
Safety hazard awareness and reporting has increased significantly and supervisors and workers are now more empowered to develop and implement safe work practices irrespective of their cost or impact on project delivery timeframes.
Topping off a whirlwind two-year safety culture transformation, SEE Civil won the 2018 Safe and Return to Work Award for Best Return to Work system.
The IPaM program is a joint initiative from WorkCover Queensland and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland available to any Queensland employer seeking to improve their injury prevention and injury management and return to work systems. Click here for more information on how to register for the program.