Mark Peagam Safe Work leader talks transcript
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[00:00:09] Carol Duncan: This is a SafeWork leader talk. I'm your host, Carol Duncan. Today, we're talking education and training. I'm delighted to welcome Mark Peagam, work health and safety manager for Viridian Glass. Viridian has been operating for over 130 years with a passion for leading the industry in safety, quality, and innovation. Mark oversees the health and safety of over 1200 employees, but Mark says that, in his time with the company, he recalls a time when scars were considered a badge of honor.
[00:00:44] Mark Peagam: I've been with the company for 28, nearly 29 years. I started on the shop floor as an operator, forklift driver, and basically, yes, I guess, stacking glass, moving glass, fairly high-risk activity. A few injuries, a few safety issues at the site led me to become a safety officer, and then a chairman of the safety committee before 2005 when they became my role, first of all in New South Wales, just as a safety coordinator. The leadership team thought I had the skills there to assist the business. I guess the position has evolved for me.
[00:01:25] Carol: Why is that area something that interests you, and has managed to maintain your interest for such a long time?
[00:01:31] Mark: Yes, I think, to be honest, I'm a people person. I just have great care and want to make sure that people don't get injured at work. My father was a builder and he'd had a few accidents where he'd fall off the scaffolding and broke bones and things. Again, it's just something that was brought up over time where I thought that I could make a difference, helping other people maintain a safe workplace.
[00:02:03] Carol: What does the day in the life of Mark Peagam look like?
[00:02:06] Mark: My key job is to coach, mentor, assist site managers, supervisors, just in making sure they've implemented processes to keep people safe. That's probably the key. My main focus is on preventing injuries and accidents by empowering the supervisors into making sure they can make the right decisions on the factory floor.
[00:02:31] Carol: I can only imagine that that sort of culture is required to run right through an organization from top to bottom, left to right, to ensure that it's truly effective?
[00:02:42] Mark: Yes. I was lucky in the way I've evolved through the business. I've had experience where I can pull that experience into assisting coaching and helping the management teams develop simple processes that can be implemented, because I think sometimes we can get a bit bogged down with the red tape of what we think is needed. When you actually look at it on the coalface, so to speak, you just think, "It's hard to implement that kind of stuff." I think there's a lot of levels of safety in the culture where I can add that value.
[00:03:27] Carol: Mark, let's dig around a little bit about that evolution of how a new safety process may occur, for example. It might be an observation of yours, that might be an observation from management, or from a worker that leads to a new process being developed. What is the culture around actually taking that advice and learning from it and then implementing it?
[00:03:48] Mark: I think from what I've learnt is that the key people to be involved are the people doing the activity. They see the activity day in, day out. I don't think you can work from the top and just say, "This is the way you do it." I think it's more around what I say is the what, the why, and then the how. Having that engagement with them and be able to say, "This is what the issue is. This is how we need to address it now. Let's look at how we can implement that change."
What I find is that, over time, you might have one thought around how the process should be, but it slowly evolves into something that's easily implemented to the site just by that consultation with the key people.
[00:04:36] Carol: Is there ever a resistance or a reluctance from any area?
[00:04:40] Mark: I think, over time, the reluctance has eliminated somewhat. It used to be-- I guess even there are some key managers I've had conversations with that have been in the industry for 30 or 40 years, they see a scar or an incident or injury as a badge of honor, basically. You couldn't be a glazier and you couldn't cut glass without having a cut to your hand. That was a badge of honor, whereas I think now the culture is that nobody should be injured at work.
There is that whole process around, "Let's fix it. Let's all work together to make sure that no one gets injured at work." I think there used to be a barrier, but I don't think there is now.
[00:05:26] Carol: Mark, you work with glass. What specific risks are there around Viridian and your employees?
[00:05:32] Mark: Look, I think there's some similar risks in all industries. Yes, glass is heavy. It is sharp. When you look at some of the products that we manufacture or we handle, we can have packs of glass that are tons, one-and-a-half to three tons worth of a product. There's mobile cranes. There's forklifts, manual handling, yes, the hazards associated with just bumping into striking, falling against glass. What we've done is, we've put together a bit of a manual handling training that we've actually launched industry-wide, so that's available through the industry, which assists us really with the manual handling stuff because, in our process, we actually polish, cut, process the glass, and nearly every piece is picked up. You can imagine, sometimes-- We actually did an analysis where one piece of glass going to the customer is probably picked up 20 times during that process.
Now, if that's a window pane, that's a large panel, that's 50 or 60 kilos. That puts a lot of muscular stress on people. They're probably the key ones who've got the handling of the glass, the high-risks [unintelligible 00:06:51] stuff, machine guarding for some of the machines that we have, all the things that we need to look at as we improve safety.
[00:07:01] Carol: My guest is Mark Peagam, who is the work health and safety manager for Viridian Glass. Mark, how do you go about training and how important is that as well as reviewing that training on a regular basis? Is that a process that you go through?
[00:07:14] Mark: As I said, we've got a video package that now we put out to industry as well, and to customers. I guess we've even done some work with the mentor program and an industry group within SafeWork New South Wales just to assist in training and educating people in the glass industry for that. We have competency-based training within the business. We have a pool of assessment tools. We have trainers and four assessors to ensure that there's some rigor around the training that we do, particularly on the high-risk stuff that we do.
[00:07:51] Carol: Training is obviously a significant investment. What are the rewards, and how do you quantify that?
[00:07:56] Mark: To be honest, that's probably a difficult one. I guess we're lucky in that the training part of it is holistic, so we don't just look at safety stuff. It's environmental stuff, it's quality stuff, it's processing stuff. We use it as a tool to make sure that there's a consistency in our operations. With that consistency, there's obviously efficiencies. We try and do the best job that we do the first time and through training and education and making sure that we've got the skills. I guess that enables us to benefit in making sure that there are those efficiencies in the business.
[00:08:40] Carol: Mark, I wanted to talk to you as well about your role as a mentor. What's that experience like for you?
[00:08:46] Mark: I've learned so much from individuals. I've mentored businesses that are family operation, the husband and the wife have the business, and they're just searching for ideas of how they can improve safety and, importantly, how they can make that next step to employ somebody, and what considerations they need to ensure that when they do that that person is safe and they're not putting him or her at any undue risk. There's a lot of opportunities that I've seen in that process where I've actually learned a lot and I've actually been able to take that to my business and go, "Look, I have to be honest, we're actually complicating things too much. Let's go back to the basics and think about what are we trying to achieve and the ultimate, we want to provide information and training and supervision to make people safe."
To me, that's the fundamentals of what we do, and some of these smaller businesses found great ways of doing it that I've been able to implement in my workplace.
[00:09:48] Carol: Can I ask you, Mark, what some of those are?
[00:09:51] Mark: There was one business that actually just had a simple way of assessing risk, not really creating a big spreadsheet. I think, when you're a corporation or you've been involved in a corporation, there's a lot of red tape there. [unintelligible 00:10:08] said, "This is how I assess risk." I'll go, "That's all you need." Really, that's all you need. You identify the risk and you put control measures in place. Yes, sometimes, I think, we over complicate things, so that's probably an example that I like.
[00:10:23] Carol: What sort of feedback do you get from the people that you mentor?
[00:10:26] Mark: As I've said, I've been doing it for 12 years, and some years I've actually done two or three mentors within that process, per year. A lot of them, they still ring me up now and ask the questions or ask for guidance. I think, not only is it empowering to me but it also helps build a network that I can call on or they can call on me too to assist them in the future.
[00:10:53] Carol: Do you use a mentoring approach when new employees start with Viridian?
[00:10:57] Mark: Yes. Within our training process, we have an online induction onboarding process, so that usually involves a bit of an introduction to the Business Handbook. It obviously has the rules, processes, procedures, policies, so people have copies of that. Then we buddy them onto people. Again, there's that checks and balances where they sit and they follow somebody and how they're working and what they need to do. Obviously, the process is then, over a period of time we just touch base, check in to make sure that things are going okay. Hopefully, they're gaining the skills needed to do the job.
[00:11:38] Carol: More from Mark after this message from SafeWork New South Wales. Employers and management play an important role in workplace health and safety. Workers in the manufacturing industry look to their leaders for safety guidance. Research shows that, after training, workers in manufacturing prefer to receive safety messages in their workplace through signs, posters, fact sheets, and toolbox talks. To support leaders in manufacturing, SafeWork New South Wales has forklift and machine safety education materials that can be downloaded or printed and shared with workers. Visit safework.nsw.gov.au/manufacturing today. Be the leader your workers need. Safety starts with you. Mark, let's talk about safety and leadership and, in particular, your leadership at Viridian Glass. Have the leaders in that organization always been on board with a good safety culture?
[00:12:41] Mark: Look, I've been in the business for, as I said, 28 years, so I think over time that leadership has evolved. We're in a situation now in a business where every leader, every manager, every supervisor understands his role or her role in that safety journey. I think their leadership is great. Yes, they understand that safety's got to start from the top and work its way down.
[00:13:06] Carol: What is needed, Mark, to be a good safety leader?
[00:13:09] Mark: Commitment, I think, understanding and really that discipline that nothing's too hard, nothing should be overlooked, because, I think, when I was first mentored, when I got onto safety, the activity that you overlook, I guess, is the activity you accept. I learned that from my early safety journey. If you walk past something, or reserve something and choose not to react, then you're accepting that. I think that's probably the key message that I have for all people, is that you've got to challenge, you've got to make sure that there's a consistent application of safety and the rules across the whole business. What's good for one is good for all.
[00:13:52] Carol: How do your own leaders at Viridian actually demonstrate that safety culture?
[00:13:56] Mark: There's a lot of behavioral safety talk, activities that we do. There's requirements, commitments from the managers to do safety works, where they actually go and engage and talk to people. They're not looking at things wrong. They're actually, I guess, starting to build that culture of positivity around the business. Looking at stuff that are going well and people are actually following rules and doing the right thing and actually having those conversations with the people to say that, so that reward, recognition-type process, rather than walking around with a big stick and hitting people on the head with it.
The key is for people to understand that safety is a behavioral type thing too. If people are doing the right thing, and we're recognizing it, they're more willing to do the right thing continuously through the day.
[00:14:44] Carol: Is there still a fear in the workforce to any degree of actually reporting something that they may see, reporting an issue for fear of getting in trouble or losing their job?
[00:14:53] Mark: I don't think so now. Obviously, there is continuously some challenges around reporting, to be honest, one of the biggest challenges is making sure that the processes that we have add value. Not wanting to report stuff because you've got them more work to do. It's making sure that the processes are streamlined and they're easy to follow and add value to the business. I think once we've got the balance of that right, then the people are reporting stuff all the time. I guess, in my role, with the systems that we have trying to keep things simple, I get daily updates on hazards that are logged from every site in the business. It's good to see that people are using the processes and the systems and reporting stuff.
[00:15:39] Carol: Mark, what are the outcomes of a great safety culture?
[00:15:43] Mark: To me, the key thing that we want to do is to make sure that we're engaged with the workforce or people doing the activities, so that they're looking after themselves, they're looking after the people that work with them and for them, to ensure that everyone goes home safe at the end of the day. That's the key thing, from my perspective, that, I guess, I take personally is that every time there is an injury I look at it as a failure, whether it's me, whether it's the system, whether it's the supervision.
It is not about pointing blame and pointing the finger at a person because they've done the wrong thing. It's about what has the organization allowed to happen to be in a situation where that incident happened. I guess, for me, it's just making sure that there's clear consideration around making sure that we are all safe at work and we go home the same way.
[00:16:40] Carol: Are there cost benefits for the organization?
[00:16:43] Mark: There are. From a cost-sighting point of view, there's always numbers that are far and around that for every dollar in safety you spend, you're sighting $5 in a business. A lot of sidekick professionals, they have the iceberg model where you actually see-- The only thing you do see are the costs of the workers [unintelligible 00:17:04] premiums and the injuries themselves, where you don't see all those underlying costs. If you've got a worker that's injured and can't come to work, it's not just the paying and the process and the cost of that injury, but it's replacing him, it's training the person that's replacing him that doesn't have the skills.
It's all those hidden costs. I think there is a benefit to implementing safety. There's a lot of hidden costs that people don't realize. It costs, when you do have a poor safety culture and importantly, it saves you money if you do have a good safety culture. Even to the extent that you have the culture within the business, and we're not talking about just safety, we're talking about the organizational culture, if that's good, people, the morale's good, then it's an efficient, effective workforce. Having injuries has a detrimental effect that.
[00:18:01] Carol: How important is a good toolbox talk?
[00:18:04] Mark: To be honest, as a business, we have key measures on that. It allows you to communicate to the business or to the people around what's happening in the business. The most value of these is giving people the opportunity to raise concerns to talk to us about how we can improve safety. Toolbox talks are imperative, I think, in a good safety culture.
[00:18:31] Carol: Mark, before I let you go, two questions that- it's the same question really, but directed to two different groups of people. These would be your top tips to organizational leadership and top tips to health and safety leadership.
[00:18:44] Mark: I think, from an organizational leadership point of view, you can have systems and you can have rules and processes in place, but, I think, it has to go beyond that. The tip that I have is making sure that you have the right process to develop and implement at all levels of the business, those systems and process that the organization needs.
What I mean by that is that you can have a procedure, you can have a process, but unless people know the what, the why, the how, and you engage in that process and you give them the skills to implement that, then it's not going to get down to the shop floor. When you're looking at that, you really need to consider making sure that you've got programs in place, not just policies and procedures.
From a safety point of view, ultimately, it's very similar, but making sure that the key around consultation, ownership at the shop floor, making sure you take the people on the journey rather than invite them to the end destination. Take them on board. Let people who have the knowledge and the skills of the activities help you, assist you in developing the safest way to do things. I think, from a culture point of view, that goes right into creating that or eliminating that "us and them" mentality and bringing on a collective, consolidative approach to safety.
[00:20:12] Carol: Thanks to Mark Peagam for sharing his thoughts on how workforce education and training is a critical component of a strong safety culture. As Mark suggests, toolbox discussions with your team are a great way to kick-start conversations about a lack of knowledge or training.
The manufacturing industry has an average workplace incident rate of 54.5 per 1000 workers, compared to the state average of 28.1 per 1000 workers. Forklift and machine safety are two of the highest impact harms. With this in mind, there has never been a more important time to upskill and educate your workforce to help avoid accidents.
To help, SafeWork New South Wales has created a range of education and training resources, including safety guides, toolbox talk guides, fact sheets and the posters that you can download for free.
Visit safework.newsouthwales.gov.au for more information. I'm Carol Duncan and this has been a SafeWork leadership talk. In the next episode, I chat with Allied Pinnacle work health and safety manager, Maria Hooker, about the importance of worker consultation to optimize health and safety. To learn more about leading a strong workplace safety culture, or to listen to the other episodes in this series, visit safework.nsw.gov.au/leadership.
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