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Safe Work Practices that Encourage Teamwork and Initiative

Posted by Andrew Watters on

You can never completely eliminate 'stooopid' from a worksite, but with certain safe work practices, you sure can improve your odds. This is the last article in a three-part, cricket-themed, work health and safety journey. Today, we step onto the pitch for the third and final day. We're looking to wrap up this test match effectively and enjoyably, and we'll also take a look at some helpful resources you may not be aware of. 

So far, in the first two articles. we have considered four safe work practice issues:

  • Accident response procedures and preparations (i.e. not getting "hit for six"). 
  • Being realistic about specific situations and challenges (i.e. playing your wicket).
  • Embodying and exemplifying the principles of safe work practices (i.e. being cricket).
  • Using unapologetic, proactive and consequential supervision (i.e. catching someone out).

Again and again, we see that people and communications are essential, so today, we will briefly review these four topics and then bring it home with a look at teamwork, communications and rewarding initiative. 

Reviewing the First Four WHS / Safe Work Practices

Accident Response Procedures and Preparations

Are you ready for when things go wrong? Can you ensure they won't go from bad to worse?

In "How To Not Get Stumped By WHS Legislation", we considered the case study of a truck driver who was struck and killed by a forklift. The accident was terrible and preventable. The response was worse, resulting in one worker’s death, a $3 million fine, and two directors convicted for a custodial sentence. Faced with a crisis, they blew it. They got hit for six!

But incident and accident responses can be planned, so we featured our Incident and Injury Policy, Procedures and Report Form

Being ready is a wise work practice. 

Being Realistic 

Cricket, like business, can be brutal. Whether you're batting, bowling or fielding, you have to deal with the ball coming at you. In a safe workplace, reality gets dealt with.

WHS legislation is ruthless, and the expectations are high. You are expected to have safe practices in place, and hazards  must be thoroughly identified and managed.

Your resources need to empower tailored and responsive practices. Naturally, therefore, we reminded you of our WHS Management System and also featured our 'check-up from the neck up', WHS Audit Checklist and Register, as well as our Legislative Requirements Register.

Playing your wicket, precisely as it is, is a sincere and precise safe work practice.

Embodying and Exemplifying Safe Work Practices 

Our next article, "Risk Control, Being Cricket and Catching Someone Out", encouraged you to "be cricket". We encouraged and equipped you to BE the difference you want to see. We asked, "Do you EMBODY the principles of risk control? Do you walk the walk, or only talk the talk?"

Using SafeWork NSW v Sandhu Construction Group Pty Ltd, we showed how a collapsing masonry brick wall resulted in serious injuries when business principals failed to live up to the safe work practices they wanted from others. The court concluded the failures were serious, culpability was high, and a $665,000 fine was issued.

When it comes to work health and safety, 'being cricket' requires a commitment to relevant Australian Standards, as well as practices like exclusion zones, thorough risk assessments, valid and complete safe work method statements (SWMS), clear and comprehensive directions, training, inductions and more.

Being cricket - or 'BEING safety' - is a safe work practice.

Unapologetic, Proactive And Consequential Supervision 

In the same article, we addressed the uncomfortable topic of supervision and the use of some 'sneaky'.  

Error, laziness, good days, bad days - these are a part of all our lives. Supervision helps keep people on their toes, leads to error identification and correction BEFORE an accident or an incident occurs, and by its very nature requires a willingness to 'catch some people out'. 

To resource this and related activities, we introduced you to our Risk Management Forms Pack, with its flowchart, Risk Action Plan, various checklists and forms.

Unapologetic, proactive and consequential supervision is an essential safe work principle. 

And now to our final two principles.

Principle 5 | Avoiding the Run Out  | Safe Work Practices, Teamwork and Communication

Ever found yourself somewhere you shouldn't be? At the wrong end of an issue or a wicket? Out on your own in the danger zone? Too slow to act? Guilty of a communication screw-up that costs someone dearly? As in cricket, it's easy to get 'run out' in the workplace too. Your teamwork and communications will make all the difference.  

Some people call these 'soft skills' (because they aren't 'technical’), but they only seem that way until a screw-up happens. Then, they feel both sharp and hard!

Though complex, communication and teamwork skills are ultimately about understanding, connection, effectiveness and controlled flexibility in the face of individual differences. Success depends on:

  1. The leader or supervisor's ability to personally perform in these skill areas, and
  2. Their ability to encourage and train their workers to do likewise.

Specific skills will enhance your effectiveness. Try asking yourself, "How well do I do this?" as you consider each skill:

  • How well do I listen attentively (rather than plan what to say next)?
  • How well do I ask good questions?
  • How well do I clarify, reflect and react?
  • How aware am I of body language - both others and my own.
  • How culturally aware am I? For example, sustained eye contact shows interest and confidence in Australia but can be seen as aggressive by Middle-Eastern and Latin American workers. 
  • How effective am I at being clear and concise (i.e. brief but effective)?
  • How selective and effective am I when using technical language?
  • How short are my sentences and paragraphs when writing?
  • How well do I know your audience?
  • How often do you work out your purpose before communicating?

Teamwork and communications are broad topics, but improving performance in these skills is a great place to start. Our Toolbox Talks and WHS Meetings Pack will also enhance these skills, so we'll take a closer look at this resource at the end.

Principle 6 | Off Your Own Bat | Rewarding Safe Work Initiatives.

Whether you choose a structured or seemingly spontaneous program, encouraging a safe work initiative is a good thing! You might decide to give it a formal name, such as "The Safe Work Practices Recognition Program" - or not. Whatever your choice, the goal here is to go beyond simply rewarding compliance or loyalty. It's about enhancing commitment to ongoing WHS improvements - in every aspect of the job.

Why reward initiative? The short answer is that it works! 

Rewarding initiative creates a solutions-focused culture. This is very different from workplaces where mistakes are mercilessly pounced upon. A focus on errors often results in more errors occurring, and the workers in such a space are often just doing their time while waiting for something better. 

Rewarding initiative shows that management:

  • Cares about its people, 
  • They are committed to their worker's safety, 
  • Value safe work practices, 
  • Want to benefit from worker perspectives, experience and potential, and
  • Are interested in more than the bottom line profit.

You can make reward programs more effective by ensuring:

  • The people giving out rewards follow the same practices (the 'being cricket' principle). Hypocrisy will dilute any benefits gained.
  • The company's commitment to work health and safety is evident in its values and mission statement.
  • The rewards and encouragements you give are meaningful and valuable. 
  • Both individuals and teams are acknowledged and rewarded as applicable. 

Beware of overlooking or taking for granted workers who serve steadily, in good times and bad. If you ONLY reward initiative, then some might even create problems - so that they can solve them. Acknowledging achievements like a length of service, regular attendance, peer-to-peer service (aka 'player of the match' and 'player's player' awards) can help here.  

The Perfect Venue?

Toolbox talks and WHS meetings are great spaces for effective communications and announcing rewards. 

To help you encourage workers' participation, enhance communications across the board and facilitate recognition and reward programs, consider investing in a Toolbox Talks and WHS Meetings Pack.

Like all our products, it's an instant download, ready-made, fully customisable (MSWord), re-usable and is free of ongoing licensing or restriction fees.

It includes:

  1. Toolbox or Pre-Start Talks - Topic Guidelines
  2. Toolbox or Pre-Start Talks - Topics Register
  3. Toolbox or Pre-Start Talks Form
  4. WHS Meeting Procedures
  5. WHS Meeting Minutes Form

Last Ball

So, here's the final ball of the over and the match. 

We've looked at not being hit for six, playing your wicket, being cricket, catching someone out, avoiding the run-out, and rewarding 'off your own bat' efforts. In other words, we've equipped and encouraged you to:

  1. Be ready for problems beforehand,
  2. Face your workplace specifics immediately, 
  3. Walk the walk and talk the talk,
  4. Supervise your people well,
  5. Enhance your teamwork and communications, and
  6. Reward initiative.

If deliberately and systematically implemented, these skills and standards can make productivity and safety a reality in your workplace.

Follow the links if you'd like to check out the Toolbox Talks and WHS Meetings Pack or any other products. Remember that there's more than a 30% saving on this (and most of) our group packages. If you'd like a more personal service (which is our preference), call 1800 304 336. As always, our resources can be quickly tailored (where necessary), and we can almost always resource unique needs. This is all we do, and we've gotten very good at it. That's stumps! Consider the ball now tossed to you - after a good polish on the whites, of course :)


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