The Work Health and Safety Culture at Facilities First

At Facilities First, health and safety are our top priority. Every day when our people come to work, they deserve to come to a safe workplace, as do our clients and their customers.

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety is identified as one of the basic human needs. When an individual is safe, they can go on to meet their psychological and self-fulfilment needs.

We view safety similarly in our business. When our people feel safe coming to work, they will produce a higher quality of work for our clients. It’s the basic principle of looking after your people to look after your clients.

Man outside the stadium riding a cleaning equipment

Untangling the web

Brain Chandler was appointed to the role of General Manager – WHSEQ and Compliance – in August 2020. When he stepped into the role, he inherited a complex web of processes and procedures that had resulted from the rapid growth in our business.

But Brian was up for the challenge, and since that time he has streamlined WHS in our business to standardise our processes across the whole operation.

“Either through acquisition or the creation of new arms in our business, we’ve got numerous different contracts that have each organically grown their own processes,” explains Brian. “What we have done is to create corporate processes so that, no matter if you are cleaning a school in Victoria or managing a stadium in Queensland, there is a standard and a consistency across the entire business.

For our clients, this means a consistent approach to compliance.

For us as a business it means we can have confidence that we have transparency to meet our quality, safety and environmental certifications.

And for our people it means they have best practice processes and procedures.”

We are always striving for best practice and that flows through every level of our business. Every client receives the highest level of compliance and service, regardless of what work stream it comes under. No exceptions.

Men working on roof construction site | Facilities First

Building a safety culture

There are many ways to look at WHS in a business. One is to take a heavy legislative approach that is very much about ticking boxes. At Facilities First, we have instead chosen to build a safety culture where safety is simply what we do, and not a box to be checked.

“We have developed a more user-friendly, audience targeted approach to training people in safety,” says Brian. “People learn in different ways, so we have videos and documentation to support different styles.

For many of our employees, English is a second language, so visual guidance is really important. Our documents now have an embedded QR code which our employees can scan and it will bring up a video explaining the workflow for the task.

We have had a big focus on building a stronger culture in safety rather than just focusing on the facts and figures. Sometimes it’s the two-minute conversations that aren’t documented that give you the best safety outcome.”

We have also done significant work to create a more robust reporting and tracking system on both our lead and lag indicators. By raising the number and quality of workplace safety inspections and safety observations, we have seen an increase in near miss reporting and a reduction in actual safety incidents.

Three ladies wearing face mask while facing the camera

Compliance in a challenging environment

We have certainly felt the challenges of compliance for a national business in the midst of a global pandemic.

With border closures in place, we had to take an innovative approach to our audits.

But much like our whole approach to 2020, we had the robust systems and processes to pass our audits with flying colours.

“Very early on in the pandemic we put some strong controls in place, particularly for our contracts where there was an increased risk,” explains Brian. “The controls involved limiting cleaners to a single designated site to reduce the chance of cross contamination.

For our team in Victoria, they were managing through a very hard lockdown. In Victoria – and nationally – we managed our clients’ facilities to the highest standards so we had no blowouts or fatalities.”

Through all of this work and the dedication of our team on moving the needle on WHS at Facilities First, we have built a solid framework and foundation on which to build in the future. We will continue to focus on building a centralised model and fostering a positive culture of safety in the business.

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