The theme for this year's Safety in Action conference is Challenge, Explore, Inspire. Certainly day one delivered on its theme Challenge, in addition to providing delegates with inspirational stories from the likes of Nick Farr (opening breakfast) and Darren Flanagan (keynote); informative presentations from business leaders and strategies for understanding of a young worker in the workplace.
What you can & cannot prepare for - opening breakfast & keynote Day 1
"It is never acceptable to fail due to the lack of preparation", said Nick Farr, mountaineer, owner of Trek, Climb, Ski and opening breakfast speaker.
Captivated by the sheer intensity of climbing the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, delegates took a journey from Base camp to the summit, some 8,848m above sea level.
"Everest is not something you just rock up to and have a go", Nick said.
Setting a daily gruelling routine of 4.30am altitude training, 2 hour bike sessions in any weather and 2 hours in the pool for 12 months, 365 days, Nick believes this is the type of dedication and commitment required to make it safely to the top.
"The mountain is very much a process. It's not a mountain where you can simply climb from Base Camp to Camp 1 to camp 2 to camp 3 and so on to the top," said Nick.
Similar to safety, it's a process and a journey. The elusive idea of achieving safety culture.
The standing ovation he received at the Sydney conference came again in Melbourne for Darren Flanagan, ‘The Gun' behind the Beaconsfield mine rescue and Day 1 keynote speaker. A raw and emotional account from a man who would rather not be named a hero, but was jointly responsible for the trapped miners walking out alive.
"I feel sick to think about how much attention I received from the media because I was working with explosives; something sexy, something that sells papers," he said.
Providing delegates with the ‘true' story from Beaconsfield, he closed out his presentation by providing the audience with this take away; if people won't do safety because it's the right thing to do then do it for your kids, your family. Start reminding people what's at stake.
The passion is not in what you say, or what your vision statements read, it's in your actions - Business Leaders stream
Safety leadership was on the minds of the panel during the Business Leaders stream, "it has to be believed to happen", said Angela Seidel, Chief Risk Officer, Goodman Fielder.
Leaders who are open to criticism along the journey and prepared to implement improvement strategies is what sets good organisations apart, according to Paul Cutrone, Partner, Sparke Helmore.
Passion towards safety is often displayed at a CEO level. It is further down, somewhere in the middle that the message seems to get lost, according to Paul. In saying this however, the real passion is not in what you say or your vision statements, it's in ones actions. How many CEO's go to a site on the weekend, or at 2am in the morning to see what's really going on? This is real passion.
According to Chris Sutherland, Managing Director, Programmed Group, despite how well an employee knows their job and despite how long they have been in their role, safety should be approached as new, each and every day; retrain and re-identify. "It's a journey and takes time", he said.
Challenging the idea that typical OHS systems are just as effective with young people - Preparing Youth for the Workforce stream
Spreading the think safe, play safe message, Preparing Youth for the Workforce kicked off with a presentation from the KIDS Foundation and panel discussion with four Year 11 students coming to grips with the challenges faced by a young person making the transition from school into the workplace.
Touching on their own experiences, all agreed, employers should be exploring the opportunity to develop mentor or buddy programs to help young people make the transition from school, into casual or part time work and onto full time employment.
Workplaces failing to look at young workers differently are simply putting any safety concerns down to ‘just being young', said Jane Nethery, Project Officer, Youthsafe.
Presenting Understanding Young Workers -The Key to Improved Safety, productivity and performance, Jane went on to detail the workplace safety program designed to challenge the idea that a typical OHS system is appropriate for a young worker.
Young workers are nervous, and eager to impress. As a result, they are overwhelmed with intensive inductions, leading the adoption of an attitude that someone else is looking out for them.
A survey during the Sydney Safety Show revealed that 60% of organisations did not have anything tailored specifically to the young worker.
It might be difficult for organisations to alter their induction process, but it's not unrealistic to start thinking about it. In particular, exploring a variety of different learning techniques to communicate the safety message to young workers.
"Look at realistic strategies you can start with today, that don't take a lot of additional resources or add extra dollars", said Jane.
The Safety in Action conference will run across three days from 5-7 April 2011 at the Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre where delegates will hear from over 50 speakers.