ContractorWorkplace Safety

Towards a zero harm target

Fulton Hogan has worked hard in the past few years to improve its safety culture and to achieve zero harm. At the recent EMA Health and Safety Concert, Jules Fulton shared the company’s safety story. MARY SEARLE BELL was there.

Fulton Hogan is one of New Zealand’s largest civil construction companies, and, like all responsible employers, is focused on the health and safety of its workers.

It is willing to admit, however, that it has had its share of tragedies, and Jules Fulton, executive GM people, was at the recent EMA Health and Safety Concert to share some of the company’s safety stories.

With a staff of around 6500 people across New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, it’s everyone at the company’s job to ensure they each get home safely at the end of the working day. Jules is very aware of the impact getting health and safety wrong has on families, friends, colleagues and communities.

“Having a deep appreciation of the consequences and long-term effects of tragedy and disaster is a key foundation for building a safety culture.”

Fulton Hogan asked its some of its staff for the “Back to Work programme” who was important to them, and the answer was clear – their partners and children. When asked about concerns relating to the effects of an accident, the worries were around the future: Who was going to pay the mortgage? Who was going to provide for the family? How long would it take to fully recover after an accident? Would they ever fully recover?

“Safety has to be personal,” says Jules. “It’s about people in the organisation. Always.”

The company is committed to zero harm – it is its only safety target.

“It’s not an aspiration; it’s what we do today.”

Jules says the company is focused in its belief that every injury is unacceptable and avoidable.

The company strategy for zero harm is focused on three key planks – people, processes and plant.

People: This is about leadership from everyone – and the mantra “I always work safely”.

Communication between staff was revised to have more face-to-face interactions and less reliance on email. There is now also more focus on recognising excellent work in the business, acknowledging outstanding safety leadership.

There are also consequences for unsafe behaviours says Jules: “Unsafe people and unsafe behaviours have no place in Fulton Hogan.” A set of seven ‘golden rules’ was introduced in July 2012.

Fulton Hogan is implementing a ‘Just Culture’. The aim is to encourage positive conversations, so around 80 percent of chats are for ‘green’ behaviours, recognising good practice. Around 15-18 percent of safety conversations are for ‘orange’ behaviours – when someone slips up or makes a mistake and the like, remembering that to err is human. The remaining ‘red’ conversations are disciplinary ones, for deliberately unsafe or reckless behaviour.

When looking at its processes, Fulton Hogan assesses its business to see where people get seriously injured. It identified five critical risk areas – electricity and energy, falls, bitumen, moving plant, and traffic. The company implemented its simple StaySafe programme.

“Before stepping up to a job, we ask everyone to think about the three StaySafe questions,” says Jules. “What am I doing? What could go wrong? How could I do it safer?”

Its procedures are also being revised to ensure they are simple, logical, easy to understand and represent best practice. As literacy is an issue in the industry, instruction sheets include photos, flowcharts and diagrams. And training is reviewed to ensure it is effective and related to staff.

Near-miss reporting has been actively encouraged since 2012. Interestingly, as the rate of recorded near misses has risen, the number of recorded injuries has declined. If Jules sees that a team hasn’t reported any near misses he goes to them and asks why. Mistakes happen, and reporting them is necessary as a learning tool.

When it comes to plant, Fulton Hogan is working harder to standardise its fleet.

“We have introduced ‘certified safe’ checks to ensure our plant meets ours and industry minimum standards,” says Jules.

In the past four years Fulton Hogan has done a lot of work to improve the safety of its people, processes and plant, but, as Jules points out, the safety journey never stops.

“A lot of people talk a good game, but how good are they really?”

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