Congratulations to the team at Mach3 for taking out the Safety Leadership Award at the 2017 Site Safe Construction Health and Safety Awards.
Started in 2007 by husband and wife team Anna and Jeremy Chapman, Mach3 has grown from a small family business to a team of almost 20 full-time staff. Based in Christchurch, the engineering and fabrication company offers a range of services, including structural steel and building strengthening, plant and equipment maintenance, mobile welding services, manufacturing and transit services, and a design and build service. We spoke to Anna Chapman about how introducing new company values and practical health and safety ideas has brought some unexpected business benefits.
As relatively new business owners in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, Anna says it quickly became apparent they needed to learn more about health and safety.
“Like a lot of businessowners we didn’t fully understand our health and safety obligations when we went into business, we paid a lawyer and an accountant, we bought a health and safety manual and away we went. We carried out the basics, but there was so much that we didn’t know.”
Good health and safety practices are vital in Mach3’s line of work, especially as there are many potentially lethal hazards in the engineering industry.
“For us health and safety is huge. We have a workshop full of machinery; and our guys work at other people’s sites too. We deal with hot works, heights, harness, elevated work platforms, confined space, and we operate vehicles and forklifts,” Anna says.
Struggling to find all the information she needed, Anna took matters into her own hands and enrolled in a correspondence course in workplace health and safety. She hasn’t looked back since.
“For me as an employer it’s about being able to sleep at night. I simply can’t grasp how hard it must be to have to tell someone that their family member has died at work, so I guess I’m obsessed with doing things right.”
What they did
Winning over the team and her husband, himself an engineer, was no small task at first.
“Engineering is typically a male dominated industry. It is dirty, noisy and dangerous. The environment is cold in the winter and hot in the summer and the people who carry out this work are hardworking, practical and tough. A lot of our guys are third and fourth generation engineers. Skills and knowledge are passed down through the years and this can make it difficult to bring about any major change.”
Changing the company culture was a crucial step for the team, Anna says.
“For us the turning point came when we held an offsite meeting and got the guys to go away and think about what they thought the company values should be.
“It was a bit like pulling teeth at first, but we were able to see who was invested and who wanted to be here in the long term.”
Jeremy’s initial apprehension about costs to the business meant the company strived to find practical, cost-effective solutions to problems, such as making their own machine guarding, an approach which has helped keep the engineering crew on board with many of the ideas.
“Using their engineering skills, we have been able to create an in-house machinery guarding program.”
“And because the boys are engineers they enjoy coming up with practical solutions.” Anna says.
Since the change in philosophy, Mach3 has implemented a gamut of initiatives including:
• A range of Standard Operating Procedure manuals, which include images and practical demonstrations
• A competency system where each piece of machinery is labelled with who can use it and their level of competency
• Regular presentations from health and safety suppliers
• Regular Toolbox Talks
• Its own customised, detailed SSSPs and incident report forms
• Improved PPE usage
• Charting incident reporting trends to inform next year’s health and safety goals
• Initiatives to reward incident reporting
• Regular health monitoring
• Team building events
A big part of empowering the team has been backing them up when they feel unsafe and letting them know that someone is prepared to follow up, Anna says.
“It helps to know someone is listening and that change is going to happen.”
Treating incidents as a learning experience and making it easy to report was also key.
“Initially nothing was being reported because everyone was too scared of the paperwork, but we’ve created our own tick box forms so the guys don’t have to write so much and that has really helped. Also you can’t say, ‘how stupid was that’, you’ve got to turn it into a teaching moment and say ‘good on you for reporting’.”
“If the boys don’t tell us, we aren’t going to be able to fix it.”
Outcomes and Benefits
Improving health and safety has brought some unexpected benefits for Mach3, with machinery guarding now a new income stream for the business.
Implementing good health and safety has also meant an improvement in the way Mach3 does business, lifting its professionalism to new levels and making them better prepared for jobs.
“The guys feel good about it because they will go to the site with all the information which is a big thing when you are working as a subcontractor.”
Being recognised as a leader in health and safety has also helped Mach3 to attract a high calibre of clients, Anna says.
“We are able to get great jobs, with fantastic clients, because we are a lot more professional in our overall approach. It also means more people come to us because they see us as forward thinking and they’ll come in with an idea and want our help – it’s a lot of more solutions-focused work.
“There’s been some really amazing projects we’ve been involved in.”
“For us, safety has really flowed into increased productivity.”
“For me as an employer it’s about being able to sleep at night."