Wellington Airport and Hawkins Construction

Congratulations to the Safety Wingman Project Team for being a finalist in the Safety Innovation Award at the 2015 Site Safe Health and Safety in Construction Awards.


Hawkins Construction was appointed as the construction contractor in the Wellington Airport South Terminal Expansion. Before work commenced Wellington Airport and Hawkins saw a need to develop a leading edge safety campaign that has never been seen on a worksite before. With the new Health and Safety at Work Act coming into effect on the 4 April 2016, Wellington Airport took the opportunity to put into play their interpretation of what was to come. The steps they have taken in this campaign would not only set a benchmark, but form a model for what is expected of the industry in advance of the legislative changes.


With the dynamic excitement of working in an airport comes high risk and a wide range of hazards. At its peak, the project will have up to 180 staff on site covering the expansion of the main terminal building, widening of the south pier, south west pier and extensive works to the airside apron. Health and Safety is the number one priority when working on a construction site which is open to the continued activity of both passengers and aircraft.

A construction project of this nature calls for an overarching safety campaign that proactively goes above and beyond standard levels of compliance. A safety campaign which would engage and empower all workers to buy into aviation levels of safety performance. The Safety Wingman campaign is exactly this, and drives home the message of proactively looking out for yourself and your peers, so everyone can go home safely at the end of each day.

What did they do?

Consultation amongst the wider construction industry was the essential foundation on which to shape the campaign. The early engagement of the main contractor and airport community, as well as government agencies including ACC, Business Leaders forum and Work Safe New Zealand, was beneficial in aligning ways of thinking, industry trends and previous approaches to health and safety. These discussions were used to help drive the initial direction of the campaign, encouraging the early adoption of essential health and safety messages by workers.

From here the overall concept name, "Safety Wingman Campaign" and messaging "Going Above and Beyond for Safety" was born, shortly followed by the development of the campaigns brand identity which included a logo, icons, posters, and collateral including hi-vis vests and hard hats. This would challenge everyone's perception and support the aim and commitments of the campaign. To show the commitment and collaboration of all companies involved in the project, a pledge document was created and signed by each company before employees could have access to site.

A safety spokesperson (TV celebrity, Jamie Fitzgerald) was appointed as an ambassador for the project to help engage, empower and challenge all members of the project team. This led to the creation of a unique safety wingman video to introduce the concept and engage with workers as part of site inductions. Jeremy led the projects launch event where the video made its debut to over 140 attendees. Attendees included those across the construction industry including government agencies, project consultants, contractors and the airport staff and community.

A Home Base was developed and placed on site, clearly marked with the Safety Wingman Campaign brand. This provided a powerful commitment towards safety on site and became the base for all things safety including inductions and tool box talks, and even special events including recognition and reward ceremonies. 

Recognition helped continuous worker engagement and is directly aligned to the heart of the message 'Safety Wingmen have each other's back". Workers were encouraged to nominate those whom they thought went above and beyond for safety. All nominees received rewards and the overall safety wingman received vouchers from the supporting sponsor, a personalised trophy and certificate. All Wingmen were then entered into the final award ceremony where they could win the overall title of Safety Wingman plus additional rewards.

Positive Reinforcement was a major part of this campaign. The direction of the project was continuously changing and this was driven by which hazards and close calls were being reported. On topic safety messages were reinforced through various platforms. For example, If there was a trend emerging in hazards around working at height, the campaign would follow this topic closely and design events, toolbox talks and educational workshops specifically around working at height. This ensured continued participation from workers in reporting hazards and close calls, attending events and nominating peers for the Safety Wingman Awards.


The results of the Safety Wingman Campaign were extremely positive with workers being increasingly engaged in their own health and safety, and also the health and safety of each other. This was evident with 60 per cent of Lead Indicator Reports coming from site workers alone. High health and safety awareness directly resulted in a low rate of onsite injuries.

The campaign was a means of giving the workers a level of respect they truly deserve, recognising their importance in delivering an icon their community will be proud. A recent survey revealed that in comparison to previous sites, workers believed health and safety was promoted far more positively, and this lead to a feeling of increased safety where workers could trust each other to look out for one another.

With better safety performance of contractors and new expectations on both themselves and others, the project has had a positive impact on the local construction and aeronautical industries, and has led a proactive approach to health and safety in light of legislative changes ahead.

Outcomes and benefits

Through the use of Google Docs technology, easy reporting functions have been put in place, and this has seen an increase in lead indicator reporting activity. A short form was also made available which could be completed on site, and placed in post boxes located around the site. This shared document was able to be accessed by all subcontractors, suppliers and external agencies. Those who reported had a chance of receiving a reward and those who reported regularly were recognised for doing so. This tool allowed for the identification of trends, what was going well and what wasn't, what was going beyond normal compliance, and what lessons could be learned. This tool will be used across other areas of the airport shortly too.

The Safety Wingman Campaign has encouraged an increased level of creativity and innovation in events, and has seen the Airport working better with a wider audience.

For the airport company the project has indirectly lifted the awareness of the contractor pool that will be used for minor and major infrastructure works both now and in the future. This increased level represents a financial benefit that could see more competitive tenders from contractors able to work more efficiently and safely within the airport environment.

Wellington Airport intends to continue the legacy of the Safety Wingman Campaign on future construction projects, working collaboratively with contractors on all infrastructure developments to improve safety performance, and also support the airport as a desirable place of work.

Currently the campaign is well on track with its goal of encouraging people to become more proactive with health and safety, and going above the levels of compliance to ensure everyone goes home safely each day. A successful campaign is about engagement and empowerment. The whole campaign is leaning on morals as opposed to expectations captured in documents, and this in itself inspires engagement and empowerment. 

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


I remember when I was first introduced to the Safety Wingman concept - it immediately appealed to me because ultimately, it's about mutual respect and it brings mana and strength to a subject too often treated as a poor relation".

Mark Walklin Tech - NZISM, Workplace Health and Safety Advisor, Site Safe New Zealand