Undercover experience a safety eye-opener for CEOs

Three leading Victorian CEOs have gone undercover to see first hand the reality of workplace safety on the frontline with their workers and gain insights they would never have had sitting in their office.
News article published

Tuesday 03 May 2011

Industries and topics
  • Health and safety representatives

Their undercover missions feature in WorkSafe Victoria’s ‘The Skeleton Project – baring the bones on workplace safety’, a new web-based campaign launched today.

CEOs Neil Coulson of Jayco Corporation, Phil Smith of Fletcher Jones and Greg Pullen of Northern Health, spent a day with their workers, in the guise of a workplace safety researcher, to find out more about musculoskeletal injuries.

“Getting out on the floor with staff was a fantastic opportunity to find out what they think about the safety improvements we’ve made and are continuing to make, and to discover what a difference investing in safety equipment has made to their jobs,” said Jayco Corporation’s Neil Coulson.

Musculoskeletal injuries are those to muscle and bones such as sprains, strains, fractures and breaks, and are most commonly caused by lifting, pushing or pulling, as well as slips, trips and falls.

They affect 50 Victorian workers a day and collectively, are this year expected to cost Victorian businesses more than $1 billion in medical costs, wages and other expenses.

Each CEO walked away from The Skeleton Project with unique learnings, however there was common realisation about their role in developing a safety culture that promotes communication and feedback.

“The experience really highlighted the importance of stepping out of the corporate office and observing what the end result of our policies and procedures are,” said Northern Health CEO Greg Pullen.

“It also made me realise it’s the little changes management can make that can result in a big difference for staff.”

Phil Smith, who was appointed Fletcher Jones CEO in October 2010, agreed the experience was eye-opening, and said he better appreciated the role workplace safety played in business.

“It’s easy to ‘talk the talk’ and say there is nothing more important than your staff’s safety. But having taken the time to look at what goes on in store from a safety perspective, I’ve made a personal commitment to change our business culture from being focused on cutting costs to one that also prioritises safety,” said Mr Smith,

Mr Coulson said the experience showed him that communication was the number one priority in improving safety on an ongoing basis.

“The employees I spent time with really valued the opportunity to have input into safety practices, and are doing a fantastic job in communicating the safety message amongst the rest of the employees at Jayco,” he said.

WorkSafe’s Chief Executive Greg Tweedly, said the aim of The Skeleton Project was to help CEOs, business owners and senior managers understand that to truly tackle the issue of musculoskeletal injuries, change and influence had to come from the top.

“We hope the experiences of our three CEOs encourage others to get out among their workers, start a conversation in their business about safety and encourage open and honest dialogue.”

Employers can learn more about the campaign as part of a series of WorkSafe information sessions being held at 18 locations around Victoria from 17 May.