Engaging staff cuts H&S incidents, improves productivity

19 July 2016

Engaging staff in health and safety had a big impact on manual handling incidents and productivity at Chep NZ, Country Manager Mike O’Brien says in a video in the FGC Leaders Series video.

“We’ve been on a journey over the past few years and we really identified that we had some challenges with health and safety and particularly incidents in our work environment and so we’ve really worked hard to try and reduce that over time.

“We’ve got 64-65 million movements happening through our business every year. We’re moving a significant amount of trucks and forklift movements to move pallets in and off vehicles as they come through our service centres. As a result of that, we have a huge amount of risk that creates some quite challenging environments to get health and safety right.

“We’ve got a lot of people moving a lot of pallets and they’ve very heavy – around 25 to 30 kg – and so what we did was we brought in some external support partners to come and help us identify and put in practices around manual handling champions, and so we built up that champion capability right throughout our business.”

The result was a reduction in manual handling incidents from 35 about five years ago down to zero in 2014. “So it’s been quite good in finding an area whereby you can see there is a problem and then coming up with a solution and working with the business to then roll that right through the business.

“We’ve been able to make some impact to safety records and results within our business, but one of the things I’ve noticed is that as a result of doing that we’ve seen an increase in our engagement of our people. We’ve had a direct impact on our productivity, with productivity increasing. And then also we’ve seen a really good engagement around innovation and coming up with innovative ideas to improve our business.”

Mike O’Brien said one incident, where a driver was millimetres from a possibly tragic outcome, was a wake-up call for him on health and safety.

“There’s no intellectual property in keeping our people safe and free from injury or fatality. It’s really important that whatever we do we share and we have a duty to ensure that what I know I share with you and what you know you also bring to the table and share with me.”

FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich says it’s clear that for companies to succeed in health and safety they have to get buy-in from their staff.

“For that to happen the direction has to come from the top, as it has from Mike O’Brien in Chep’s case, and they’ve had some great results because of that. It’s something others can learn from without having the close call that the driver did in this case.”

Speakers in the FGC Leaders Series so far: Geoff Shaw on training up talent for senior roles, Sharna Heinjus on sustainability, Veronique Cremades on health and wellness, Gerry Lynch on health and safety, Kelly Smith on talent and retention, Pic Picot on environmental sustainability, Mark Callaghan on health and wellness, Alison Barrass on health and safety, Craig Cotton on health and safety leadership, Lindsay Mouat on advertising to children, Hamish Marr and Kevin O'Shannessey on talent and retention, Len Croudis on food safety leadership, Alison Barrass on health and wellness.


View Mike O’Brien’s video here