Corbel Construction

Congratulations to Kristina Wischnowsky and the team at Corbel Construction for taking out the Safety Contribution Award – Individual or Small Team at the 2015 Site Safe Health and Safety in Construction Awards.


Corbel Construction was founded in the year 2000 and provides construction services throughout the greater Canterbury region and South Island. They have now stretched their services to include Auckland and their goal is to become a $100M national contractor by 2018.

In 2013 Corbel Construction welcomed Kristina Wischnowsky into their business as Business Excellence Manager. Kristina brought with her 15 years of Human Resources experience, as well as a passion and drive for health and safety.

We spoke to Kristina about how she helped drive a change in Corbel Constructions Health and Safety company culture, and how her involvement in the wider industry has contributed to this success.


Prior to 2013 Corbel Construction was mainly focused on residential and light commercial construction. The company was seeking growth and set a goal to become a $100M national contractor by 2018. The company recognised that in order to grow, the journey would require change. "The foundation of achieving a great vision is being a great employer and making sure everyone who works for you is safe." In a company such as Corbel Construction, Health and Safety is of fundamental importance for the employees, and it is also a key requirement for customers. When Kristina came on board she knew there was some work to do in order to help light a proactive and innovative fire in the culture around health and safety. "You want people to feel good about coming to work." Kristina highlighted that this came down to three things an employer needs to provide; appropriate training, relevant tools and a safe working environment. "No job is more important than your lifestyle or quality of life and it's an employer's essential responsibility to ensure people return home safely to their families at the end of the day."

What did they do?

The need for change had been recognised. The next step was to understand what position the company was in, where they wanted to be, and then plan the journey to get there.

Employee engagement was a vital component to bring about change. Two key parts to the engagement recipe were acknowledgement and ownership. Acknowledgement in recognising the steps individuals took towards helping achieve the company vision, and ownership in helping everyone feel committed to the safety journey, ensuring they saw it as their personal responsibility. This was necessary to achieving a positive health and safety culture companywide. "The secret ingredient was celebrating success and forward progress, rather than focusing on mistakes."

Ongoing research and information gathering from within the industry was valuable in the journey towards reaching the company's goal. Kristina set out to build strong relationships with health and safety industry partners. She took on a voluntary role with the Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter steering group and became a member of the Charter's safety forum. She is also the industry representative on the Charter's Tripartite working group where she helps to understand safety on site from a workers perspective. Kristina's involvement in the wider industry allowed her to contribute some invaluable health and safety initiatives to Corbel Construction. Kristina is proud of the work they are achieving in this space. "We're a smaller player compared to others around the table and yet we are making a valuable contribution, and this creates a solid platform for developing a strong Health and Safety culture in our own business."

Kristina is also a member of the Construction Industry Alcohol and Other Drugs working group and has presented to various audiences on relevant Health and Safety topics. "It's great working with smart and talented people who are willing to volunteer their time to support small businesses, giving them the tools and encouragement they need to put in place effective safety practice."

Making health and safety more visible in the organisation was key to generating a health and safety culture. A health and safety committee was established, health and safety became the prioritised agenda item at company meetings, weekly safety alerts were introduced into toolbox talks and monthly site safety audits were completed by senior leadership. The company introduced annual health monitoring, power tool competency testing, more formal incident reporting, and the company safety induction was redesigned to align with the ten commitments of the Safety Charter.

The need for increasing training opportunities for employees was recognised. The question was asked, "What if we train them and they leave? But the more important question was "What if we don't train them and they stay?" All employees were put through a Site Safe Building Construction Passport and the number of qualified first aiders and health and safety representatives was increased.

Kristina also put in place an employee referral programme. This was a further asset to the company culture and has resulted in increased employee retention. This is because it was bringing people into the business who were like minded, and already had a high amount of respect for health and safety in the workplace. They understood the culture they were coming into, because they had already been briefed on this by their friend or family member who had introduced them to the company.


By focusing on the internal culture and how employees and leaders in the business viewed and prioritised health and safety, the business has seen a revenue growth of 131% since 2013.

The organisations relationship to health and safety has been transformed from leaving all the responsibility to one individual, to each person owning their own responsibility for health and safety. Employees now view health and safety as something to be celebrated, rather than just compliance. Leaders are committed to ensuring their employees go home safely each day, and Health and Safety incident reporting has increased.

The referral programme has seen a 67% increase in retention rate in employees since 2013. This means the culture is stable and pro health and safety. A reduced staff turnover also contributes to growth in business revenue.

So the win has been in the people, the culture, and the adoption of health and safety as a positive aspect to the business. People are passionate about health and safety and what it can do for the business. This is what has driven Corbel Constructions success and growth.

Outcomes and benefits

When we asked Kristina if there were any learnings to take away from the last two years she replied "Never give up, be persistent, and keep loving the people. People make mistakes, but it's important to focus on the good because that is where you will achieve the results. It's about sharing your passion with others, and this passion is contagious. The goal becomes more reachable then because suddenly the whole team is involved rather than one person dragging others along."

In the end it takes one person to start the ball rolling. Much of what has been established in the last few years has been inspired from Kristina's invaluable knowledge in human resources, and her commitment to volunteering in relative industry affiliations. Corbel Construction are well on track to achieving their goal and this year will be more about consolidating the good work the team has done, and continuing to implement systems that will make it easier for them to do their jobs effectively.

The foundations are now in place for a successful business and substantial growth ahead - we wish Kristina and the team at Corbel Construction a continued safe and healthy journey to becoming a $100M national contractor by 2018. 

For more information on our awards visit our Health and Safety Awards page.