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The Newcastle Herald

Call for a change in attitude

By Gary Bentley

The cost of Newcastle and Hunter workplace accidents has blown out to $79 million a year.

There has been a corresponding increase in trauma and suffering for accident victims and their families. But Newcastle workplace safety culture and behaviour specialist David Morley said the soaring cost could be reduced by at least 30% if the problem was tackled at its grassroots.

'Worker's attitudes to safety have to change if we are going to see any improvement in this appalling cost to the community,' he said. 'We need to take a good look at our way of dealing with this before the situation gets any worse.'

Last week, Mr Morley was guest speaker at an accident risk management seminar at the Industry Development Centre in Callaghan. He said Newcastle and Hunter employers could save at least $25 million a year in workplace accident payouts by adopting an attitude change program that had already proven itself at the coalface.

The program, a Course in Advanced Safety and Quality Awareness, is the only one of its type in the world and was developed in Australia by People and Quality Solutions (PaQS) Pty Ltd. The program benchmarks and develops individual attitudes towards safety and quality.

It also looks at willingness to accept personal responsibility for one's own safety, propensity to avoid dangerous risks, stress tolerance, professional driving attitudes and quality attitudes.

'This is a significant change in direction from the more traditional safety training systems, however it recognises what most insurers and safety specialists have been saying for years,' Mr Morley said. 'That is, that over 90% of accidents are due to human error. Employees come out of the course with heightened self-esteem, responsibility and confidence which results in more rational decision-making and in turn a safer, more quality oriented workplace.'

He said many companies around Australia had adopted the program. They included the Henry Walker Eltin managed Stratford Coal Mine project at Gloucester, Allied Plant Services, MIM Holdings, Gosford City Council, CSR, Western Power, BHP, Wesfarmers, Finemores Transport, Roche Mining and Leighton Contractors.

Some of the results being recorded include:

Gosford City Council pilot study: zero injury and at fault incident rates; 21% drop in absenteeism; 13% increase in supervisor ratings.

MIM Holdings Oaky Creek Mine pilot study (managed by Jamieson Consulting):
90% reduction in disabling injuries; incident reporting doubled, reflecting increased responsibility for safety and quality.

BHP Rail Operations pilot study: initial 58% reduction in injuries and a greater than 50% sustained reduction 18 months past the program implementation; 98% improvement in quality attitudes; 28% improvement in absenteeism; doubled incident reporting.

Mr Morley said the attitudinal change approach was marketed by both PaQS Pty Ltd and its associates throughout the country.

Over the past two years major insurance groups insuring big vehicle fleets including freight transport vehicles have been taking interest in this approach to improving safety. These insurers have included Allianz (MMI), National Transport Insurance (NTI), Zurich and Lumley. National risk manager for heavy motor with Allianz Dean Croke said "This attitudinal approach to safety is now a successful and important part of the Allianz approach to risk management, in particular driver fatigue".

This program has been developed by PaQS which is opening an office in the Hunter.

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