How OHS can engage leaders to deliver better diversity and inclusion outcomes

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Wednesday, 28 November, 2018 - 12:45
Industry news
National News

Diversity initiatives need to be owned and driven from the top down if they are to be successful, according to a Diversity and Inclusion Champion in Health & Safety for 2018.

Liam O’Connor, group HSEQ manager at Tasman Rope Access, was recently recognised by the SIA’s Women in Safety and Health (WISH) network for his work in the area of improving diversity outcomes in the OHS profession.

O’Connor has implemented a number of initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion across his company, with a focus on driving social change in the business.

“In late 2017, I set the challenge to Tasman Power, Tasman Rope Access, Tasman Mechanical and Tasman Recruitment (collectively known as ‘Tasman’) during a meeting of senior management,” he said.

“The challenge was actioned to each individual manager to identify personal causes and beliefs that they were passionate about and identify a way where the companies could act as the instrument to enact social change in that area.”

A key pillar of his success was the engagement of leaders within the organisation and structuring the program around their personal values and beliefs.

“It’s nothing new to anyone in business, but our leaders really pushed the programs’ significance from the top-down, outlining to everyone the specific details; the aim, objective and actions of the program and providing updates in that area to all staff as they developed,” said O’Connor.

“Our board, managing director and general manager were all fully supportive of the decisions I was making on behalf of the companies for the program and as a leadership group, were able to ensure the success across the businesses.”

The program was implemented as the company’s leadership agreed that it had a social and ethical responsibility to provide alternate employment and training pathways to varying ‘groups’ of the Australian community.

“In addition, our board of directors and managing director were interested in ways to further build on the internal culture of the companies,” he said.

“One of the ways was by providing additional leadership opportunities to our personnel in areas that can achieve a direct, positive impact in the industry sectors of their personal values.”

The program’s key elements and components comprised of aligning the companies with other passionate organisations that are the leaders in their field, and O’Connor outlined key elements of the program below.

Aboriginal, Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders. Tasman has engaged several community organisations after revisions to its internal ‘reconciliation action plan’.

“We’ve partnered with several community-based NFP’s to provide Aboriginal, Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders fully-funded training that has been paid for by Tasman, that has led to upskilling and subsequent employment into our recruitment pool,” he said.

“We also continue to provide work experience placements, internship opportunities and apprenticeship programs to candidates through the NFP organisations.”

Female participation. Tasman is actively involved in gender equality and female participation within the male-dominated trade industries.

Four heads of department within Tasman are female, with opportunities provided to community organisations and their female candidates to experience working under these managers for industry work experience and internship positions.

Transitioning Australian Defence Force Veterans. O’Connor said Tasman proudly assists ex-Defence force personnel in transitioning into ‘civvie street’ with the provision of employment and training opportunities.

O’Connor noted that the current veteran unemployment rate reported to be 30.2 per cent; almost five times higher than the national unemployment rate.

“In conjunction with ‘With You, With Me’, Tasman is proud to provide engagement openings to individuals who have provided service to our country,” he said.

“In addition, the skillsets obtained from their service in the military provides additional assurance to our client base that personnel across our work fronts have qualifications and the highest level of training and experience in providing immediate medical and incident response measures.”

Environmental impact reduction. Tasman installed 132 solar panels onto the roof of the head office building to reduce its operations’ carbon footprint.

Monthly electricity bills reduced on average by 68 per cent in electricity consumption and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions – which resulted in an average monthly reduction of 3,837 kilograms of emissions.

O’Connor said the program also includes encouragement for members of the LGBTI community to apply for vacant positions, work experience opportunities for postgraduate university students and allowances by Tasman to enable its senior management to participate within local community-based NFP’s in a non-executive director capacity.

“Australia-wide, our crews have benefitted in multiple ways from the onboarding of personnel from the various sectors of the program,” said O’Connor.

“Members of our staff engaged through the social impact program can share personal experiences and learnings during toolboxes and pre-start meetings, bringing a different viewpoint and potential recommendations for risk management measures to be enacted.

“This different viewpoint and knowledge are also able to be included in the revisions of core HSEQ documentation and work processes across Tasman,” he said.

With Aboriginal, Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander candidates, crews can learn directly from members of local communities about the history and cultural significance of the land, along with traditional customs.

For veterans, the company actively seeks personnel who have served within Special Operations Command units and those with high-levels of incident response training who can act as an interim incident controller for any potential worst-case scenarios with clientele.

“This strategic goal of advancing diversity has resulted in additional risk management measures across our operations to continue to ensure we achieve a true zero-harm environment,” said O’Connor.

“A by-product also is further best practice and compliance with AS/NZS 4801/ISO 45001 and the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth).

“We’ve also increased our compliance with ISO 14001 through the program and with the ongoing environmental initiatives.”

There has been “a lot of positive feedback from employees, suppliers and clients” on the program, according to O’Connor, who said stakeholders have bought-in to the original aim of the program to use the companies as an instrument to enact positive change.

“The changes we’ve seen not only include increased morale across our organisations, but also our new employees that have come through the program are confident that they have successfully upskilled themselves, are no longer reliant on the federal government’s ‘safetynet systems’ and now have long-term employment prospects in their new position,” he said.

“Internally, we’ve continued to achieve our zero-harm environment with our zero MTI and LTI rates with the onboarding of the ‘green’ employees.

“This achievement will allow Tasman to continue to roll-out the program nationally as we open additional office across Australia in 2019,” said O’Connor, who added that other contractor partners and clients have approaching him individually to request the specific details of our program to replicate within their own organisations.

For more information on Tasman’s social impact program as well as the Diversity and Inclusion Champions in Health & Safety for 2018, please see the upcoming December issue of OHS Professional magazine.