Australia looks for new ways to tackle serious injuries and deaths

Date: Aug 17, 2015

A new Australian government initiative could see a reduction in the number of total and permanent disabilities and deaths in some of the country’s most hazardous sectors.

The Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) is funding a trial that will test a new approach to safety in the workplace. According to the organisation, the methodology will encourage companies to overcome entrenched attitudes and beliefs rather than force staff to memorise processes.

PIHSP Research and Development Advisory Panel Chair Gordon Gregory said the approach is already making waves in the mining and offshore drilling sectors. The first trial is being held in the fishing industry, but the scheme will be expanded should it prove a success.

“Many primary industries operate in inherently dangerous environments, often with a transient workforce. While there’s been a significant improvement over recent years, there are still too many people being killed and injured,” Mr Gregory explained.

“We have to go beyond compliance and develop a culture where safe work practices are simply the ‘done thing’ and staff are motivated and committed to changing their behaviour.”

Safe Work Australia statistics show that transport, postal and warehousing is the most dangerous industry segment in which to work, with 29 deaths in the sector this year. Agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction and mining are also particularly hazardous.

Preventing workplace injuries

The PIHSP project will take place at the Northern Prawn Fishery, with 80 crew members monitored on their safety attitudes following a Sentis Zero Incidence Program training module.
Sentis provides psychology-based safety training, which attempts to optimise the workforce’s behaviours in a number of ways, including:

  • Boosting team communication and morale
  • Minimising near misses and instances where first-aid is needed
  • Improving reporting behaviours
  • Enhancing compliance
  • Increasing safety skills, motivation and knowledge

The Northern Prawn Fishery workers will be tested 12 months after they’ve received Sentis training to see whether the program had a significant long-term effect on safety.

The PIHSP, which is funding the project, said the scheme “could be the catalyst” for changing how safety is approached across the farming, fishing and forestry sectors. Safe Work Australia data shows there were 26 deaths across the segment last year, with 23 having occurred already in 2015.

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