Changing an organisation's safety culture takes time and dedication from management and staff. Snap Fresh OHS Coordinator, Belinda Llamas understood that the overall organisational culture needed to be taken into consideration in order to improve the safety culture at Snap Fresh.
Background and challenges
Snap Fresh is a frozen food manufacturer that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Qantas and is part of the Q Catering Group. Some challenges they faced included:
- manual handling tasks repetitive work
- work requiring significant interaction with large industrial equipment
- risks of amputation, cuts, lacerations, burns and electrocution
- musculoskeletal injury claims including sprains and strains.
Exploring the issues
In 2011 Snap Fresh conducted a worker engagement survey across all levels of the organisation. The aim was to profile the workforce and better understand their concerns. The survey asked questions about employees' perceptions of Snap Fresh - what they thought the business was doing well, and areas that could be improved.
The results let Snap Fresh understand what mattered to its people and what the company needed to focus on in order to build a better culture. This included:
- company values and behaviours
- leadership capabilities
- performance management and recognition
- safety, work conditions and wellbeing.
The survey highlighted that the leadership team had the lowest engagement score of all work groups.
Some other findings included:
- negative worker attitudes across all levels of the business
- low acceptance and understanding of workers' cultural needs
- perceived lack of strategic direction for the organisation
- workers viewed safety as a hindrance
- low levels of hazard reporting
- use of lag indicators (past performance safety monitors) and the absence of lead indicators (to monitor potential safety issues).
The survey results provided Snap Fresh with the data necessary to identify areas of focus to improve all aspects of the workplace and create a high level of engagement with workplace safety and culture.
Senior management led by example by improving their own engagement in safety.
This began with the general manager addressing issues raised with him. The leadership team also introduced key performance indicators (KPI's) to help measure safety engagement with their teams. Nominating and measuring KPIs such as safety observations and compliance with training, resulted in a better focus on preventative workplace activities.
The general manager also directed the leadership team to improve engagement by celebrating wins and sharing what was working well in the teams to create awareness of what other departments were doing well.
With an engaged leadership team, changes started to occur. Workers sought to contribute and needed opportunities to share. The leadership team's focus shifted to opening more channels of communication and consultation. They did this by:
- expanding site meetings to include all department managers, including OHS committee employee representatives to speak about safety within their respective areas
- making safety a standing agenda item at all site meetings
- allowing work health and safety representatives one day a week off the floor to actively engage in safety activities
- implementing a 'myth busters box' to identify issues for discussion at site meetings.
To help strengthen organisational culture, Snap Fresh also implemented cultural awareness training for workers. The training emphasised values to promote acceptance and encouraged workers to look out for one another.
Since the engagement survey, Snap Fresh has implemented more than 20 initiatives that have contributed to an improved safety culture, including:
- engaging an external physiotherapist to provide treatment and early intervention strategies, including ergonomic assessments
- training staff in occupational health and safety minimum standards and risk assessment processes
- additional training for supervisors to handle safety such as risk management and investigation training
- celebrated successes and rewarded staff for health and safety improvements
- Introducing ongoing wellbeing promotions e.g. 10,000 step challenge
- a change in philosophy to 'consultation before implementation' such as fortnightly management 'walk on the floor' sessions to engage with employees about safety
- enhanced standard operating procedures to embed safety and quality
Four years on at Snap Fresh and there has been a significant improvement in the organisation's safety culture. Other improvements include:
- an increase in worker engagement
- a significant reduction in injury rates and recovery times
- an interdependent culture whereby workers take ownership of safety and help each other.
- Culture needs to be driven from the top.
- Engaged workers results in a happier and more productive workplace, efficient processes, lower costs, and a safer environment.
- Improving safety culture in the workplace is an ongoing commitment, but the rewards are well worth it.