Safe Conversations – Part one

Safe Conversations Part One

​An interview with Mark Mackey, Metro Tunnel Project

We begin the National Safety Month industry conversations with Mark Mackey, Senior Safety Coordinator on the Cross Yarra Partnership (Metro Tunnel) infrastructure project. Mark has been working in Health and Safety for around 15 years, working on major road, rail and mining infrastructure projects in WA, NSW and Victoria.

The project is an $11 billion dollar, multi-disciplinary, city shaping project. It includes the construction of twin 9km rail tunnels from Kensington to South Yarra and new underground train stations at Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain.

See below as Mark shares his thoughts on National Safe Work Month and its importance.

Tell us about National Safe Work Month – what it is?

Safe Work Australia was established in 2008 to develop national policy and guidance for Work Health and Safety (WHS) and workers’ compensation. It’s a national campaign to raise awareness about WHS in the Australian working community.

The context and the portfolio for Safe Work Australia is across multiple sectors and industries, their focus this month is in relation to being a “safety champion” the initiative promotes valuable insight into businesses no matter their size or annual budgets. It promotes a valuable understanding into organisations to have meaningful people focused discussions that highlight:

  • Promotion of cultural change and focused discussions pertaining to people’s safety

  • Promoting positive engagement at all levels of the organisation

  • Identifying improvements and solutions in the work area

  • Engaging in conversations to reduce exposure to people

In your opinion, has it been successful?

Significant data has said that it has. I would challenge is it still successful if we still have fatalities and major accidents. I believe there needs to be a big focus all year round.

What have you loved seeing about National Safe Work Month in the industry so far?

The engagement at “troop level”, the valuable insight of having a personal conversation with employees. Finding out: their passion’s, what motivates and drives them about their perception of critical risks and asking what safety improvements they would implement.

Asking these questions gives insight on challenges our employees are having and at an organisational level, we can self-reflect and make measurable changes that impact a cultural shift within the Construction Industry. 

So, have you seen that across your projects in Australia?

Yes, it’s been great seeing the change in safety culture over the past few years, a lot more of a collaborative approach to safety, based at troop level.

Why is highlighting safety with National Safe Work Month important?

Specifically, within my experience in the construction industry, there is a significant increase in serious incidents and fatalities from October to Christmas. Lessons learnt highlight lapses in concentration within people’s life, as behaviourally we are thinking of family and friends and what we will be doing for Christmas.

These small lapses have substantial impacts of the people we care about. So, focusing on “family first” discussions at this time promotes buy in at the “troop level”. They can have a considerable change within your organisations incident rate, reducing the risks and exposures to our people.

The goal is always every worker going home safe to their friends and family each and every day.

What are you and your business doing for National Safe Work Month?

Promoting “safety champion” engagement and discussions aligning with our specific critical risks. This highlights a specific coaching  and mentoring function within the organisation. We also created a “no blame process”. This can empower significant change and alter behaviours and ultimately increases the perception of employee’s safety. 

What does a safety champion look like to you?

  1. Cares about people

  2. Conversations in relation to accountability and responsibility

  3. People focused – how can we do it better

  4. Creating an open platform – really believe in no blame

  5. Not having a top down safety process

What should industry be doing for National Safe Work Month?

“Challenge the Status Quo” - asking for feedback from all levels of your organisation including internal and external Stakeholders. Question “how we do business”, simplify outdated systems and procedures including processes that add no value.

Embrace technology and its ability to impact within your business. It is the most underutilised method to significantly improve safety.

Understand the human element of your business, the bulk of your employees are visual learners so embrace technology that assists your employees to simplify systems and processes. This will also align with an increased understanding by your employees within the organisation, highlighting your core business values.

Should safety be the main core value for a business?

I would say people are your core value. If you have the right engagement, safety will follow. People and safety go hand in hand.

Thanks Mark for taking the time to answer our questions and give us insights into what Safe Work means to you.