September 2011

Cutting the accident tally

One team’s project to reduce accidents at work went far wider at Hamilton City Council, which entered the EEO Trust Work & Life Awards 2011.

The effort of one Hamilton City Council team to reduce its summertime accident tally led to a council-wide initiative to boost workplace safety and wellbeing.

It all came about after the 60-strong, largely male and Māori and Pacific Island City Delivery team  which carries out installation and maintenance of the city's water and wastewater infrastructure  noticed a higher rate of sprains and strains on coming back to work after the Christmas holidays. 

The council's Safety & Wellbeing Advisor, Tracey Stevenson, says that in 2010, the team manager decided to tackle the post-holiday accident rate by setting aside a day to focus on health and safety. Accidents dropped from four in the first two months of 2009 to just two in the same period in 2010.

SWellcome Back Week (the capital S and W stand for "safety" and "well-being") took the concept further with a week of health and wellness activities for the all council staff in February 2011. The flagship event was a Health Expo where the 40 exhibitors included sports equipment retailers and organisations offering blood pressure testing and ear checks. The council-owned gym and other local gyms offered various fitness classes.

In a "managers on-the-job" day, leaders either worked with their own team on the ground or joined other teams in order to refresh their knowledge of what staff were facing every day.

The 88 managers who took part worked alongside staff in departments such as animal and noise control, parking enforcement and at the museum and zoo. One, Phil Saunders, said, "It was positive to be able to observe some of the health and safety issues my guys face on building sites and show my support for them."

Seven speakers presented on topics ranging from fitness, healthy living, work-life balance, and "beating the blues". Police presented to parks, utilities and parking staff on how to stay safe on the job.

Safety on tour was a popular bus tour where staff, many of them office workers, visited different areas of the council to find out what their colleagues do and the safety issues they face. To support the week, the council's onsite café took fried food off the menu and offered a healthy special each day.

The results? Tracey says that more than half the council staff - around 600 people - attended at least one event.  Staff accidents for January to March fell from 37 in 2009 to 23 this year.  

Swellcome Back Week built on six years of wellbeing initiatives, which sit alongside a flexible working policy and a leave policy that includes days off for community work day, family day and study leave.

Around a third of permanent employees take up the annual free health checks and flu jabs. Results of health checks have prompted employees to lose weight, quit smoking, and buy reading glasses. The council also offers resilience training, melanoma awareness, retirement and budgeting information and career courses.

 Tracey says Swellcome Back Week is likely to be back in 2012.  "By offering many wellbeing initiatives and continuing to have a focus on safety, Hamilton City Council can continue to support a healthy, happy and productive workplace".