Several of Australia’s major industries have jobs that can be dangerous if proper safety protocol is not followed. Business Review Australia had the opportunity to talk to the CEO of the Australian Paralympic Committee, Jason Hellwig, to understand how workplace incidences can be avoided, and what the APC is doing to help bring awareness to employee safety.
Employee safety should one of the highest priorities of a company. What would you recommend the first step be for a company that maybe does not focus on this as much?
There are safety measures that all businesses must adhere to but when these are lax, this is when preventable workplace incidents can occur. Companies can do many things to make workplace safety a major focus, but one of the first steps is to connect with their employees and educate them about the personal implications about not being safety aware. Linking with likeminded organisations who can share insight into issues plaguing an industry and ideas for how to addressing safety issues and how to approach education help create a more safety-aware culture.
Sectors like mining and manufacturing are often the ones plagued by worker injuries. What needs to change at the company culture level to encourage safety?
Most organisations, particularly in the safety-critical sector industries such as mining, manufacturing, construction and transport educate their staff on the importance of safety, however what needs to be encouraged is the idea of individuals taking responsibility not only of themselves but to those around them. In relating this back to the Australian Paralympic Team and the sports environment, personal responsibility and everyone working with a common goal is what makes sports teams successful. It’s the same with safety.
Using the team paradigm as an example of how you can build your safety culture would be doing things like identifying a “team captain” and have them not only lead conversations around safety but personally exhibit those safety behaviours. Our Paralympic Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team and our Wheelchair Rugby team have strong cultures that rely on personal responsibility of each and every player. Players are responsible for being “on” when the ball is in play, even if its heading for the sideline – you chase until the whistle blows. This active responsibility on court has helped both of these teams achieve their respective World Championship titles. It’s the same with safety - empower employees to take responsibility and reinforce this with consistent leadership and behaviour.
Please share a few details about the Workplace Safety Alliance. Where did the idea for the initiative come from?
Many of our athletes have acquired their disabilities through a life-changing incident in the workplace. They are examples of the importance of implementing health and safety initiatives at work. Despite suffering permanent disability, they’ve all gone on to achieve the pinnacle of sporting success. Each athlete’s journey from accident, through recovery, to return to work and life, provide relatable examples of the impact of workplace injury on the individual but also the impact on their family, friends and colleagues.
We’re in the unique position to make a real difference to how employees view workplace safety, by bringing our athletes relatable stories to the forefront of minds.
What unique opportunities does the WSA provide?
As a member of the Workplace Safety Alliance, companies have the opportunity to have a Paralympian visit work sites and share his or her experience with employees and talk candidly about the impact of workplace injuries on them, their workplaces and their families. Athletes also share how their injury impacted them emotionally and socially as well.
We’ve also partnered with the Safety Institute of Australia to develop the Workplace Safety Alliance, to not only reinforce our commitment to health and safety, but to ensure we provide members with direct access to industry announcements, revised policies, new regulations and research.
Our Alliance partners are also invited to attend a range of events organised by the Australian Paralympic Committee including corporate breakfasts through to experiential Paralympic Sports events that encourage everyone to get involved and provide valuable networking opportunities.