The Gold Coast Council implemented the Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks (PErforM) program into its business, and has seen some great benefits as a result.
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Bob Cunningham, Manager, City Maintenance Council of City of Gold Coast
Michelle James, Principal Advisor Ergonomics, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
Lawrence Battiss, Corporate Safety and Risk Manager, Council of the City of Gold Coast
Sharon Vandermaat, Business Compliance Facilitator City Maintenance, Council of City of Gold Coast
Sean O'Kane, Workplace Health and Safety Support Officer, Corporate Safety and Risk, Council of the City of Gold Coast (PErforM Facilitator)
Warren Sporne, Roads and Drainage Crew, Council of the City of Gold Coast
Shyam Surendra, Supervisor for City Cleaning, Council of the City of Gold Coast.
Scott Osman, Technical Officer City Cleaning, Council of the City of Gold Coast
The Council was motivated to implement the PErforM program based on the statistics we had that related to our musculoskeletal injuries.
PErforM is a really simple risk management program that workplaces can implement to help address their hazardous manual tasks. We've seen a lot of benefits come out of it and that includes reduced injuries, improved safety culture and communication.
The outcomes of this program are phenomenal. It has significantly reduced the incident rate across the organisation. Actually this is the first time in a few years that we've actually gone from double digits down to single digits lost time injury frequency rate and lost time injuries. We are seeing the benefits from a financial perspective, there has been improvement in productivity, less days lost, people feel safe, they are more competent to work in their space and the, the practices are now safer.
Three key elements need to be in place for the PErforM program to be implemented successfully in any organisation.
- management commitment and support
- the participation of workers
- and you need champions to drive the PErforM program and facilitate training and communication relating to PErforM.
The PErforM program was the tool that we saw value in using. It was simple to use, easy to understand. We decided to train up seven of our staff members to become our PErforM facilitators.
One of the main roles for the facilitator was to act as an information conduit between the workers and management. For our first big win we approached the guys to see if anyone was having any manual handling issues.
The guys from the Flowcon truck or our bitumen patching crew informed me that they were having issues with loading and unloading a heavy compactor on the side of the vehicle. It was difficult because of the weight. It was in excess of 70 kilos. These guys were trying to lift it up and swing it in and out of its cradle with one hand. So yeah, it was quite a hazardous manual task that's for sure.
The guys suggested to get some hydraulic lifters on the side… to save them doing any heavy lifting anymore. The guys are real happy they don't have to do that anymore.
Yeah, he come over one morning and said "Okay, I want to look at youse load your vibe plate on and do all the work that you do normally on the old system," and then it went on from there and things have changed since then, yes.
The key to the whole program is that the worker is the expert in identifying those tasks that are causing them concern and then of course they have the answers in relation to controlling those issues. So some things have just been so simple. It's like "Why hadn't we thought of this before?".
I was involved in the PErforM risk assessment from the beginning with addressing a need to change our 60 litre bins to 240s. There's a lot of manual handling involved in our 60 litre bins. You have to physically go to the bin, lift out an insert that can weigh up to 80 kilos.
So the injuries involved in the 60 litre bins were widespread. There were a lot of shoulder injuries, a lot of back injuries, some wrist injuries. Reaching into the bin, pulling out the bin. So I worked with my boss, my supervisor, my coordinator and we came up with a plan of changing those bins to a 240 bin guardian.
The communication involved in doing the risk assessment and coming up with the plan of changing the bins was easy.
In changing the bins to 240s a lot of consultation was done with the workers up to coordinator level and even above.
An example of another control measure that we put in place is the hedge removal program and also changing the town planning laws to stop hedges being planted when a new development is put in place.
Our parks and landscape crews would be hedging all day and actually holding a hedger out for hours and hours at a time. Now no more hedges are planted within the city when a new development comes about and any hedges that are actually causing concern to our staff, they know that they can report them to their supervisor now and those hedges will be removed.
We've had multiple issues with our guys hurting their backs, their shoulders, arms, a couple of hernias and the major issue is the guys having to lift heavy items manually. So 20 litre drums of chemical used to be delivered outside the shed. They were left there on the floor. The guys had to come along, pick them up and manually move them onto a storage bund that was placed on the ground and they were having to lift these drums continuously and obviously lots and lots of manual heavy labour.
So we implemented a process where we put the bunds on pallets. We also implemented a decanting station. So now they just decant at waist height, no bending, no crouching and they just take one litre bottles out to their vehicles at a time.
All our staff come up with all the control measures, all the issues, all the problems, all the solutions. "what are your issues?", "Where is it hurting when you do this activity?", "Why do we need to change it?", "What do you think you should be doing?", and "How do we bring that in to make it better for you"?
With the good ideas I would go forward to our management and say "Okay, this is the recommendation the workers want to improve their safety. This is what's come out of the PErforM program. And then from there they would organise funding and make sure that we received the correct control measure that we needed to be implemented.
The guys now realise that they have management support when they raise a safety issue. Previously beforehand they felt if they raised an issue they wouldn't get the support of management and the issue wouldn't be dealt with. Now with PErforM they've seen the first big win. The changes they've recommended are going forward, they're seeing these improvements and this progress.
The PErforM program was easy to implement into our existing safety management system. This ensured that there was a timeframe set and that there was a response to the suggested control measure in relation to trialling a new piece of equipment, having a conversation with management and the workers about how they were going to move forward with the control measures.
To keep momentum what we have done is established a PErforM Facilitator Network Meeting Group. So each month we get together with all of the PErforM facilitators and they will talk about what they've done during the month and share that information with the other PErforM facilitators.
We've recognised the effort that the workers have put into coming up with these controls by having a forum whereby they are acknowledged. We have our annual safety week or again the best ideas are acknowledged and put on display for the rest of the workforce.
I would highly recommend the PErforM program because it is so easy to implement and it's easy to do the assessments. It's easy to get the worker involvement. It's a simplistic approach to risk assessment for manual tasks for both management, supervisors and the workers.
The staff at Council that know how the PErforM system works can assist us so easily and it's a very, very simple system and it works really, really well.