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Meet the Australian winners of the Excellence in Safety and Wellbeing at RCSA’s Industry Awards

Brett Davis, General Manager Safety at Chandler Macleod Group, takes us through what sets Chandler Macleod Group apart as an industry leader and what receiving the Excellence in Safety and Wellbeing award at this year’s RCSA Industry Awards means to him and the team.

A lot of my close friends from the HSEQ community work in the Recruitment, Staffing and Consulting Industry.

I’m sure many of them, like me, fell into the industry before fully understanding what we were getting ourselves in to!

Funnily enough though, I do note that they rarely leave.

I was extremely lucky to serve my safety apprenticeship with one of the recruitment industries greats of the past, and after spending 13 straight years of a 15-year safety career within our sector I can say that I genuinely enjoy what this industry offers.

I couldn’t imagine being limited to a single workplace or industry. I think that as an association we find ourselves in such a privileged place, to be able to impact not only our people, but our clients, their people, and our community as well.

Chandler Macleod was always known to me as a giant of our industry. When I joined the team in May 2019, Chandler Macleod was celebrating 60 years in business and only three months prior had undergone significant change merging with Peoplebank Australia. In February of that year, Chandler Macleod had re-established themselves post-merge with a new CEO, CFO and Group leadership team.

You can’t continually grow to the size and success of Chandler Macleod Group, especially supporting the blue-collar industry, without a keen focus on safety.

Culturally there was nothing wrong, in fact our injury rates were not only competitive, but they had improved year on year for as long as we could report.

It was a privileged place for a Safety Professional to find themselves; a well-established organisation that takes safety seriously and had a history of continual improvement.

Setting ourselves apart

There was nothing tricky about the initial planning methodology of our team.

We asked ourselves what many have before; ‘What would it look like if we had the strongest safety culture in the industry?’ and worked backwards.

Somewhere into the process, we realised that this well-worn trail wasn’t enough. To make an impact in such a mature organisation we needed an x-factor.

Conceptually, we realised that if we were to be the industry’s best, everyone in our organisation would be a safety leader.

Then we asked ourselves; ‘What if instead of working towards this, everyone in our organisation was already a safety leader. What if, at Chandler Macleod, we were all safety leaders?’

With that our CEO, Peter Acheson, flipped the switch from concept to reality.

He set a challenge to the newly formed organisation, not to the safety team, not only to the leadership but to everyone from the top down. Every day, in every decision you make, you have the backing to be a safety leader.

Our ‘We are all Safety Leaders’ campaign was released in October 2019 and quickly became more than a campaign, but the cornerstone of our approach to safety.

Little did we know when we launched this mantra how much the organisation would embrace the philosophy, and the impact it would have on the safety of our workforce.

To date, we have halved our injury rates during one of the more trying periods in recent history.

Our greatest safety improvement has been during a time of significant uncertainty where we concurrently supported our hospitality employees through the downturn in the tourism sector and mobilised unprecedented amounts of people in government assistance, warehousing and transport/logistics to support the community in response to COVID-19.

What worked?

Initially, I think what worked was that this was something more than just another behavioural safety campaign where we encouraged positive individual choices.

The ‘We are all Safety Leaders’ mantra escalated each and every one of our people to the level of organisational leadership. Our people were not only empowered to make individual choices impacting themselves and others around them, but they were also empowered to make ‘others keeper’ choices based on the principles of compassion and respect.

Pleasingly within a very short time, we found our teams not only embracing the concept internally but externally.

Notably, our team in regional Victoria took on what seemed a simple Drought Employment Program to assist drought-affected farmers find work. It turned into a project where our teams actively supported local NGOs to rewrite their safety management systems to better support the farmers we were preparing to place.

The second piece of the puzzle related to an active choice to recognise who we are.

At Chandler Macleod, our purpose is ‘Connecting people to opportunities for a better life’, not necessarily to extract coal out of the ground, run a smelter, or distribute essential groceries – though we have people doing these things and we understand the risks.

In our industry, we speak about the dual responsibilities of PCBU’s, or ‘partnering’ with clients but we have come to believe our greatest strength is understanding our differences.

While our people placed with clients are engrained in their safety management systems, organisationally our clients don’t engage with us to emulate their approach to safety. The place of our organisation, and our industry, is to focus on the specific elements of our delivery, and factors within our control.

We have spent the last two years focussing on our approach to complement our client service offerings by providing the best people, providing effective and appropriate support structures, and empowering them to do what they do best.

What this award means to us

The internal reaction when we were awarded the Excellence in Safety and Wellbeing Culture Award at the RCSA awards this year was greater than I expected.

The sense of pride and validation across the organisation was palpable.

After 18 months of empowerment, 18 months of individual daily choices, the teams felt this recognition in a far greater way than any injury trend had delivered.

To this end, as an organisation, we have now retired incident reduction targets.

Our focus is simple; contemplating how we continue to be a leader individually and organisationally; understanding our role in industry and society and; challenging ourselves to find the best method to compliment, rather than imitate our client’s safety philosophy.

At Chandler Macleod Group ‘We are all Safety Leaders’.

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