Tamara Scanlan Safe Work leader talks transcript
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[00:00:09] Carol Duncan: Welcome to SafeWork Leader Talks, a podcast series that explores the challenges, benefits, and best practices of establishing a workplace safety culture with innovative New South Wales manufacturing health and safety leaders. I'm your host, Carol Duncan. Today I'm talking to Yates' safety and sustainability business lead, Tamara Scanlan, about designing safer manufacturing workplaces. Tamara has been instrumental in developing a forklift safety and fatality prevention program for Yates, one of Australia's biggest manufacturing brands in garden supplies and chemicals.
She joins us today from Sydney where the program has been in operation for the past decade with a proven track record of positive results. First up, Tamara, what was your pathway into workplace health and safety?
[00:00:56] Tamara Scanlan: Well, when I was younger, I wanted to become a nurse, so in that field, I decided to go to university. When I approached the university, they said, "Well, if you do two years of occupational health and safety, you could go into becoming a nurse straight away." Then when I joined occupational health and safety, I never left. I finished that degree, started out in the industry. I finished in 2003, so then started out at graduate roles working through paper industry consulting, and then Dulux Group, and then moved on to do some more business experience, so went and I studied an MBA as well.
So, just, I like it, its so varied. You get lots of different experience. One day you're dealing with training and culture, and the next day, you're dealing with, yes, something really technical and compliance-driven. It's just a very varied occupation. Every day is different. Yes, it's really exciting that way.
[00:01:57] Carol: For you to have never left, you must find those aspects of it really satisfying?
[00:02:03] Tamara: [laughs] Yes. It's very fast-paced, so I like the changing environment, and I like seeing change. Over the years, it's really satisfying to be able to go back into a site to after-- Think back on when you first head to the site, and you made a lot of changes, and then you go back into the site, or you think back eight years, and you think about all the changes and the safety practices and culture and how happier and easier the work is for the employees to deliver it. That's the satisfying part for me, is knowing the change that our profession can make on manufacturing and wider operations and organizations across industries.
[00:02:43] Carol: Tell me about your industry? I guess, what are the inherent risks and challenges that come in that space that you're working in?
[00:02:50] Tamara: So we work for Dulux, Selleys, Yates Parkham, have lots of different businesses, and really, we're focused on safety and sustainability. It's one division in our business. We look at everything from the safety risks and the
environment and compliance risks. We really look at understanding the risk of our business from cradle to grave. The conception of a product or the conception of a new processing idea, right through to the end consumer use of our products. Really, from an operational point of view, there's lots of risks out there, and we break them down into three key strategy areas.
In safety, we have three key strategies. In sustainability, we've got two, but our three in safety are around disaster prevention, so preventing major disasters, from the handling of flammable solvents, combustible dust, or storage of dangerous goods, because our industry is all about-- We have manufacturing, construction, and paint-based products. Then we have got, in the fatality prevention space, we manage all the typical types of hazards relating to all the fatality risks out there that normal industries face. Anything from forklifts, traffic management, electrical safety, machine guarding. We have lots of different mixes on our site.
There's lots of things that could hurt people, filling machines. We look at lifting equipment. We have eight fatality prevention protocols across our organization that helps us manage the risks of fatalities. Then our third area of focus or risk area for our business is in the injury prevention space. Managing the risk of the most common injury causes. Slips, trips and falls, ergonomics and manual handling, chemical exposure, because we are a chemical business, anything else that could come with that also, and mental health and illness as well.
[00:04:44] Carol: What was the driver for developing fatality prevention protocols at Yates?
[00:04:49] Tamara: Many years ago, we rolled out a really intensive hazard reporting process just to improve our whole organization understanding of hazards and risks across the business. In that reporting process, we were quite alarmed at some of the reports that come through, but we welcomed the knowledge. That's what our business always strives for, is we take every incident, every hazard report, as a learning opportunity. We actually call them GLIs, a general learning incident, so that we could really delve into those and understand.
That was a key driver of our fatality protocols because then we actually analyzed some of our data, and we realized that we were seeing some serious new misses, but also lots of minor things that could have caused harm, but if we weren't going to control them across the group, that they would expose people to fatality risks. We've developed the fatality prevention protocols, which are our company's minimum requirements for preventing fatality. Every site, every business leader, every area of the company, must comply with all the requirements of these fatality prevention protocols.
[00:06:02] Carol: Tamara, can I ask you what was the nature of the incidents that were occurring?
[00:06:07] Tamara: A number of the incidents were coming from forklifts. It's in our operating areas. Forklifts was the key one. People interacting too closely with forklifts as near misses, forklifts dropping products, forklifts traveling too fast. Lots of different near misses that would come from forklifts. We took all of those learnings to then create the requirements within the protocols. One of the requirements is everything
must be strapped when it's carried by a forklift. All of our forklifts are speed limited, and that's a physical inherent feature, whatever learning we got from those GLIs. That was just doing around forklifts.
Then when you look at electrical, it might be an untagged piece of equipment. It could be electrical lead that's damaged. It could be a spark that happened from a piece of equipment. We took all of those learnings, and then we put those into care requirements of those protocols.
[00:07:04] Carol: How did you actually do that? How did you establish those methods and designs to actually come and resolve those issues that you were finding? It sounds like forklifts have been a significant issue.
[00:07:15] Tamara: Yes. I thought this was one of our first fatality prevention protocols that we've rolled out yet across all of our operating sites. We went on a journey. This all started in 2012. It was a real journey for our business. Along with forklifts, we also rolled out driver safety so that we could help our sales field. Within the forklifts space, we really just analyzed all of the learnings that we got from lots of different incidents and also regulatory requirements. We compared those against operating standards from regulations or acts or guiding principles, whatever was out there in industry.
We consulted some other companies, benchmarking what they were doing. We also contacted some of our forklift providers to look at new technologies that are really available to enhance the critical controls. What we were looking at is really understanding, "Well, what are our risks?" If there was a risk around speeding, "What feature on a forklift could actually help us prevent people from speeding?" Was it behavior? We really challenged ourselves to go, "Well, how do we stop the risk?" Not just rely on people to slow down or to drive slowly, but that all principles were in around operate at walking speed, but when you could actually physically set the forklift to a safe speed, there's no human behavior in there, and the forklift can only go on a maximum speed suitable for the environment.
We really engaged our forklift companies to look at new technologies. We also have bump recognition. We had a number of damaged equipment as well. A few didn't see bollards, or it was obvious that forklifts have been touching, knocking things. We've installed bump recognition to allow us to automatically send the name out, when the forklift hits something at a certain impact threshold over the email of the site supervisor so that we could go and investigate those issues as soon as possible. It could be that our loads were installed in the wrong spot, which was a hazard to the forklift operator.
Then I was really talking to the employees out on the floor and who are working in the environment to say, "Well, what's the right set up? What works for you? How do we improve it? How do we separate employees if they're coming too close to you? If you have to suddenly stop and product falls off your forklift, and you're reporting that, how do we keep the people away from the area that you're operating in?" We never just solely develop something. We're always looking at, what is the best practice out there in industry? How can we really challenge our status quo?
That's why I enjoy working for Dulux Group and our business so well, is that we're never accepting just our own level of experience. We're always challenging ourselves, seeking further improvement, working with regulators to go, "Well, what is best practice out there? How do we get that learning back into our business?" Our supply chain guys work with other continuous improvement working groups where we're constantly touring other factories, looking at ideas of what other people are doing to solve some of the common hazards that we all have in place. There's solutions out there, we just got to go and seek and find them. Every problem has a solution. [chuckles]
[00:10:28] Carol: From the great use of collaboration to help solve and learn in safety, to the nitty-gritty of creating a safety culture. More from Tamara after this message from SafeWork New South Wales.
[00:10:44] Carol: 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.
[00:11:31] Carol: Tamara, your focus is obviously on health and safety. That's where you're concentrating. How important is it for you to get a great buy-in, and what is the role for the organization's leadership?
[00:11:45] Tamara: Our leaders are fully engaged. Safety and sustainability is drawn from the top. It's inherent in our company values and behaviors. Our company has four key values and behaviors of which one of them is value people, work safely, and respect the environment, which is critical to what everybody in Dulux Group and Yates and all of our businesses must adhere to. It's a really core fundamental value that is supported by our vision which the leaders have set, which is "a future without harm". That's really looking at risk and the management of all facets of risks.
Not just zero injuries, or no injuries to anybody ever. All the traditional types of vision have less, so we're looking at not creating harm through anything that we do to our people, to our property, to our products, to our consumers, to our customers, to our visitors to our sites. We want everybody to remain safe and enjoy their working relationship with our business. Then that is supported by the five-pillar strategy. As I was talking about earlier, those three safety areas of disaster prevention, fatality prevention, injury prevention, and then sustainability, which is sustainable products and efficient operations. All of that makes up our leadership focus.
Then every meeting or every discussion that our business has, starts with safety and sustainability, and talking about all the good achievements that the business is making, but also incidents. We'll also talk about priority actions. If we've got some
key strategic initiatives that we're doing in the safety and sustainability space, we'll focus on bias. We'll just talk about, "Well, how is the culture and the people accepting and working towards a safer workplace?" Those guys really, really drive the culture through visible leadership and also monitoring and assessing, continuously checking in with our operations leaders, with our employees on the floor.
They visit our sites. They're instrumental to the development and the acceptance and the capital that the business supports us in being able to implement some of the critical controls as well, from our fatality prevention and everything else.
[00:14:08] Carol: When an organization gets this right and develops a great safety culture, what are the benefits?
[00:14:15] Tamara: What the benefits are, well, no fatalities. That's what we all want to achieve. The benefits is nobody is injured, nobody is seriously hurt. The most important thing is nobody is killed within the workplace. Everybody feels safe. They feel they're being listened to. If they have any concerns, that things are being addressed if they are raising it, and they have a voice. That's what good safety culture looks like. If people feel like, they can bring up any issue, any concern to the organization, and the organization will listen and respond appropriately. To come to work and not go home in a worse state than you arrived is the ultimate aim for everybody.
[00:14:59] Carol: My guest is Tamara Scanlan, who's the safety and sustainability business lead for Yates, part of the DuluxGroup of companies. You've referred earlier to things that you have implemented, things that you have seen change in your time with the company. Can you elaborate on some of those?
[00:15:16] Tamara: Sure. At our Yates facilities, many years ago, it was quite congested. There was minimal walkways, minimal barriers. Machine guarding was different. The handling of products, the layout of the site was quite congested. Over the years, it's been really pleasing that as we've rolled out new changes to the site, we've been able to upgrade our plant and equipment. We've got further automation into our sites for advancements of machinery and equipment. The most important thing is being able to remove clutter and space out our environment to put in designated working areas.
Forklifts and pedestrian separation is critical to ensuring that employees don't get hurt, that there's a place and a space and a location for everything. Just seeing the changes when you walk into our facility. If you're looking week on week or day on day, it's hard to see the changes, but I have a number of photos around my office of when I first came in and some of the first photos I took of the sites to what we see now. As operations leaders change at those sites, it's really important to show them the difference of what the site used to look like because no site is perfect.
Nothing is perfect in any state, but it's really important for everybody that's working there to see the journey that the site is on and the long term journeys. "Think three years down the track. What do you want your site-- What do you want your area-- How do you want this to look?" Because change does take time. When you actually look at it over a longer period of time to see that massive improvement and the
changes in the employee morale, how easy they are to come up and put a generallearning incident on our noticeboards or hand one to our managers. That to me shows progress because nobody's scared of reporting anything anymore.
[00:17:19] Carol: Have the leaders at Yates always been on board?
[00:17:24] Tamara: Yes. Our business has always had a really strong safety cultures. The leaders have always been on board there. There's always change in leadership at every business, at every site. New leaders come in, but it's the employees that really drive the culture. If they see that the business has processes in place, everybody gets on board with that business process. If there is a business process, the leaders are just a part of that process, and everybody gets on board. The leaders also challenge the status quo, and they don't accept minor things.
They expect things to be fixed straight away. "Don't wait for the next safety committee, or don't wait for the next time you see me. Report it and fix it straight away, and then tell me." The leaders really encourage ownership from their employees to manage and, I guess, lead their areas.
[00:18:23] Carol: What do you do, or how do you handle it when you hear of an employee who has been reluctant to report something because they're scared? Perhaps they're worried that they'll lose their job, or that they'll be penalized in some way.
[00:18:36] Tamara: That's very common. [chuckles] Employees may be reluctant, or they're scared to report something because they've damaged it, or they've stepped out, or they don't want to dab on-- They see it as a dabbing process of their fellow workmates. We actually treat it as no-blame culture. We don't blame anybody. We really drive a learning culture. Everything is a learning opportunity. Even if you personally do something, no human, no person is perfect. I've actually walked through a production facility without my safety glasses on, on top of my head, and I'm the safety and sustainability professional.
I'll go away, and I'll raise a general learning incident because it was my personal learning. We treat it as either a personal learning or a learning for the organization. We just really work through that with those individuals to see the change that they can contribute to by raising these issues. If they're raising something, we say that, "We can't fix it unless we know about it. If you guys tell us, we can help you, and we can help the site and the business fix the problem." If they are still reluctant, we really coach and mentor those people with care conversations.
We call it "intervening with care" is, how do you actually talk to somebody about a hazard, but make it personal? A simple example, if you were approaching somebody who wasn't wearing their safety glasses, they could make it personal, "I noticed that you weren't wearing your safety glasses. I'm worried that you will get chemicals in your eyes. Can you please put those glasses on?" It's more of a request. You make them, the person who you're talking to, understanding of your concern of them. It's really that in around that coaching pace, that one-on-one, them seeing change, that's the most important thing.
If people are raising things and nothing gets done, and they continue to raise it, and it still doesn't get done, they give up, and they don't believe in the system. If they see things being actioned, change happening, everybody gets on board. It just spreads, everybody wants to get involved in the thing that's making the change.
[00:20:57] Carol: How important is it that the leadership at the organization actually models and lives that value, so that employees can see that their leadership actually walked the talk?
[00:21:08] Tamara: That's most important. If leaders are out in the field, they should be following the same requirements as the employees. Also checking in that if incidents are raised, or GLIs are raised, or the site is got a major hazard with something, the leaders should be checking in on those hazards, not just focusing on metrics and performance indicators, but really getting down to the detail is, what is driving these issues and concerns at the sites? If leaders not just focus on the metrics and focus on the action and the outcome, that's a better outcome for all of our business, for all of our sites, and they get out there, and they do that.
They walk around. They say what's new. They talk about gaps that were identified in self-assessments, in group audits, if we would have those, or external reviews of their sites, and a major concern was raised, our leaders track those right through to completion. It actually drives that if your leaders care, your business will care, and everybody cares about that issue.
[00:22:11] Carol: Tamara, I love how you speak with such positivity and enthusiasm about what you do, but I'm sure that there have been difficulties. There have been challenges, barriers, perhaps. What have some of those challenges been for you?
[00:22:24] Tamara: There's always a challenge in safety and sustainability. When you're rolling something new out, it's people's resistance to change. They're worried that they're not going to get the right outcome. For the fatality prevention protocols, it took us a long time to get those right. We've put them through a major consultation process within our business, and lots of people were contributing. It took a long time to get the actual protocol developed, let alone then getting out to the field when you actually have to put in the solutions that the protocols require.
I guess it's that perseverance and breaking through and understanding that every problem-- I always go by, "Every problem has a solution, and if you don't know it, go and find it because somebody else has got it." Whether it is jumping on to SafeWork's website, whether it's googling a solution, whether it is talking to other experts within the field, reaching out to other sites within your own business that might be similar to yours and face the same problem, how do you get a collective vision on that problem so that you can all address the same issue collectively and bring in all different resources?
There's always barriers, and there's always resistance to change. With the forklifts and pedestrian separation, some of it we had line marking specifically in the past and a couple of barriers, but it wasn't as what it is now. We actually got teams together, and we walked the floor. If people feel engaged and empowered and get their say in any solution, that breaks through the barriers of fear. It breaks through the barriers of the unknown. Everybody gets involved in working out the right practical solution for
the area. That's the way we did it. We got lots of people engaged in the whole process, and that way, you've got learning on mass as well.
Everybody learns the right requirements at the right time, and then everybody engaged their teams back on the site to work out, "Well, what are the right solutions?" Where we come up against a barrier, you would report it back to the business to say, "Well, is anyone else facing this? Does anyone else have a solution?" The amount of photos that were sent around at the time-- As I said, there's always a solution, somebody's always got that hidden gem, you've just got to find it.
[00:24:49] Carol: How important is it to be talking to others about workplace design?
[00:24:55] Tamara: As a mentor to the business, you're always trying to talk about practical. You're always out there guiding the solutions. You're not trying to fix the problems for the work field. You're not trying to fix the problems for the site that you're guiding in. What are you looking for? What is the vision? If you can talk to the ultimate outcome for that example, which is the separation of forklifts-- The ultimate outcome is the separation of forklifts. We talked about guiding principle as being the main part of the discussion, and then you just let the discussion take hold.
Everybody starts contributing, and you really try and talk to guiding principles and vision more than driving solutions for people, because to get a solution to be successful, the teams have to own it, the business has to drive it. We're there, safety professionals and people in our area who are mentoring their business or mentoring each other. Our roles is to, I guess, provide those vision statements and those guiding principles and facilitate the discussions. If leaders and businesses don't quite know how to start the journey, is to really facilitate that process.
I did it as simple as just getting teams together and walking around and looking at interaction points. Where you've got an interaction point, and then you start thinking about, "Well, here's an interaction point between pedestrians and MHEs, how do we stop that interaction?" It's a facilitative discussion, but the design is, it's really important to have the intent or that vision statement ready to go with everything that you're doing as a safety professional or a leader, to be able to guide the business through, well, what are you trying to achieve through every action or every program that you're implementing?
[00:26:49] Carol: Do you think sometimes people don't know where to look to get good information?
[00:26:53] Tamara: Yes. Our business has been-- In the development of our protocols, we've always looked at government websites. If employees and leaders have access to computers, and they're always open to researching, and they will go on to SafeWork's website and look at codes of practice, look at standards, look at checklists, look at guiding principles that they're rolling out, posters. We have a number of SafeWork posters for forklifts and separation around our sites because I find those really visual, really interactive and really easy for employees to understand.
We also have a number of SafeWork posters and stickers on our forklifts because there's lots of tools and videos and checklists. There's lots of information on those
websites that any organization can access at any time for examples if they're unable to develop or know where to start.
[00:27:53] Carol: Tamara, finally, a couple of questions in your top three tips for a couple of different groups of people that you work with. What are your top health and safety tips for other leaders in manufacturing?
[00:28:04] Tamara: Leaders in manufacturing, be visible. Get out there, work with their teams. Consult with your teams about any hazards and really encourage reporting. Be open to suggestions from your workforce and really respond to those and challenge the status quo. If an employee says, "This is the way we've always done it," don't accept that, really challenge that there's better ways, and there's improvements that can always be made.
[00:28:33] Carol: Likewise, your top tips for health and safety leaders?
[00:28:38] Tamara: For health and safety leaders, it's really, again, very similar. Being visible and always challenge the business and really drive improvement because everything can be improved. Challenge the leaders in their way of thinking. Our role is to really get out there and the leaders challenge the employees. We challenge the leaders and everybody's driving for a sustained continuous improvement.
[00:29:04] Carol: When all that goes right, what do you get?
[00:29:07] Tamara: When all that goes right, you get a site that looks very, very different after. After eight years of working with them, a happier workforce, safer workforce, less injuries, no fatalities, which nobody wants to see, and a really healthy hazard reporting culture and everybody engaged and wanting to see change
[00:29:28] Carol: Our thanks to Tamara for sharing her great insights on workplace safety. Tamara's experience shows that when every job is designed to be safe, and safe practices and controls are in place, workplaces become safer, more enjoyable places to work, and more productive places of business. I'm Carol Duncan, and this has been a SafeWork leadership talk. In the next episode, I speak with Viridian Glass work health and safety manager, Mark Peagam, about the importance of educating and training workers when building a safety culture. To listen to our series of leadership talks, or for more information about leading a strong manufacturing workplace safety culture, visit safework.nsw.gov.au/leadership.
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