A culture of health and safety at OneStaff gains recognition

We sat down to chat with Jon Ives, Group General Manager at One Staff, an on hire recruitment agency in New Zealand, about their recent recognition as finalists in the 2017 Site Safe Construction Health and Safety Awards.

What does it mean to be a finalist in the Site Safe Construction Health and Safety Awards?

OneStaff has made a massive commitment in the culture across our community to raise the profile of health and safety from a box tick requirement through to an integral and personally valued part of “how we do things around here”. Through open and honest discussion with all stakeholders (candidates, clients, suppliers, competitors, external agencies, internal staff, and shareholders) we have worked to define what is the industry standard, how do we feel about this, and what in turn should be our standard?

This effort is not just in the design, implementation, application and evaluation of the many measures we use, but in terms of identifying and driving the intrinsic motivation of our staff toward both the tangible and intangible benefits of leading in this field. It is fantastic to have the effort and care of all of our staff acknowledged through a national recognition measure such as this, and to validate all the effort that has gone in.

Obviously the desired outcome is healthier and safer staff and ultimately an improving awareness of general H&S for everyone, but getting some affirmation that we are on the right track through a pat on the back along the way is certainly very appreciated.

What is the biggest issue regarding health and safety in the construction industry?

From our experience there are many issues relating to Health and Safety that affect the general construction industry – but here are two sections that really stand out for us, the first is the variation in company standards and measures, and the second is culture (which I’ll address in the question below).

Re Standards: There is a huge variation between what companies feel is practicable in compliance. In particular the concern is really for those companies that chose to run the risk of costing compliance in terms of a blunt dollar value ahead of the people factor that always results from incident.

There are many ways to price the cost of failure against an event (fines, reparations, delays, cost of compliance, etc), but generally these financial approaches nearly always miss quantifying the cost of personal tragedy and personal repercussions for stakeholders in an incident after it has occurred – repercussions which have the most lasting effect long after the incident.

As a result, in companies that price compliance like this, the effort to mitigate is generally never weighted anywhere near as high as it should be. We are all in business, but it can’t just be about the bottom line where people are involved. I genuinely believe that those companies that do not start considering this personal element (both in health and safety and in other strategic and operational strands) will suffer over time – the days of blind loyalty and a career based on a pay check are declining with the increase in communication and interaction from individuals who are highlighting what is important to them (Work/Life balance, personal care and consideration, portfolio careers, referral networks etc).

How do you implement a health and safety culture at OneStaff?

Further to the answer in question 1, the implementation of a H&S culture is something that takes time. It can never be a matter of creating a system and dumping it into operations – the entire concept, design, review, implementation, application and evaluation needs to be staff driven. They need to see the benefit and engage with the process for it to become second nature – which is ultimately what culture is “How we do things around here”.

There are a number of steps to this process as you want your staff to own in the processes and the outcomes. To do this they need to appreciate a personal motivator to make H&S a part of their day to day considerations. This might start with small incentives, prizes/recognition/innovation/personal projects etc but it needs to build to a genuine appreciation and understanding for the personal rewards of knowing you are doing all you can.

Also demonstrating how important their safety is to you is critical – setting up wellness initiatives like medical insurance and fitness benefits is one way, creating safe spaces and opportunity for open dialogue around safety is very important, but perhaps enlivening your values and showing safety is important to you through leading by example is the most important.

For our internal staff, their candidate’s safety and care is a part of their role in managing their pool of contractors. The real benefit is the peace of mind that exists knowing you can and have done what you can to prepare the candidate for the environment and the environment for the candidate. We can’t stop accidents, but we can stop being complacent and encourage and apply proactive techniques to lessen the likelihood of incidents happening. The ideal place to get too is where people do what they can because it’s important to them, not because they feel they have too.

How have your employees, clients and candidates benefited from your health and safety policies?

Initially the proportional reduction in incidents and injuries overtime is a pretty good indicator of employee benefits, as is the increased feedback we get from staff in general re H&S processes at our client’s sites and from the day to day work they do. Comments re feeling appreciated because they are asked their opinions in site meetings and given opportunity to provide feedback are great indicators of an improving process – they also are clear indicators of engagement.

While we have a much-increased level of reporting now which does require more follow up, we are able to mitigate small problems before they build, so there is a saving in reactive time required after something occurs.

Amy Towers, who runs the RCSA workshops on 'undressing risk,' believes the key success for One Staff is the fact that their internal staff view health and safety as part of their job.

I have spoken to businesses where their sales staff tell me, "well, i'm in sales, so it's not really my job to think about H&S." It really is a business wide initiative to instil safety as an every day consideration.

I also love how One Staff are doing it for the 'right reasons,' not just for the awards. Awards are a nice to have, but making safety a priority regardless of recognition is the cornerstone of a good safety culture - it brings it back to understanding the benefits and responsibility of keeping your employees and candidates safe.

Register for RCSA's video workshop 'Undressing Risk'

with Amy on 18 October

Amy is running an online video workshop called Undressing Risk, to help recruitment businesses identify their safety risks and develop their safety policies. It will be held on the 18th of October 2017. It will be an interactive online version of the face to face workshops Amy runs, so you can tune in from anywhere, New Zealand or Australia from your home or work.

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