AGL Scaffolding and Rigging
Congratulations to the team at AGL for taking out the Safety Innovation Award for small to medium businesses at the 2016 Site Safe Construction Health and Safety Awards.
Established five years ago, AGL employs a team of 15 staff and provides scaffolding services on all types of builds, from major commercial sites through to small residential builds.
A member of the Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter, the company prides itself on its strong health and safety culture, which involves everyone from top-tier management to workers on the ground.
We spoke to AGL’s Health and Safety Officer, Kanei Johnson, about how their approach to “making safety click” led them to success at the Site Safe Construction Health and Safety Awards.
AGL became concerned after noticing that many of the contractors using their scaffolds were unaware of the “basic 101” of scaffold safety. For workers on a scaffold, not knowing the basics, such as how to check safety tags and how ladders should be placed, could lead to a serious fall from height or to putting their workmates at risk.
And in a deadline-driven environment, it has become more important than ever to take a step back and think before starting a job, Kanei says.
“Understanding what a safe scaffold should look like and what to do before getting on may seem simple but these things are really important and can prevent you from falling,” Kanei says.
“The culture has always been ‘she’ll be right, we’ll get it done and carry on’ but with the way we’re moving forward, with the pace and the pressure that everyone has got with their timeframes - the industry can’t keep operating like that, or someone is going to get hurt.”
What did they do?
Seeing a need for someone to take the lead, AGL “put their hand up”, and with the support of the Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter, decided to host a Scaffold Safety Breakfast. Participants were treated to a steak breakfast where they were asked to compare a safe and unsafe scaffold set up in AGL’s yard. AGL staff asked the participants to identify what was wrong with the unsafe scaffold, and encouraged them to ask questions. The session gave people information on basic things to look out for, and what to do if something seemed wrong.
The event was an overwhelming success, with many who attended telling AGL they knew little or nothing about the scaffolds they were getting on.
Following the success of the breakfast, AGL were invited to demonstrate the same initiative at the Health and Safety Solutions event organised by the Certified Builders Association and Master Builders. Over 350 builders attended the event and again, AGL’s Scaffold Awareness Session identified a lack of education among those using scaffolds.
“The sessions were about getting the knowledge out there, getting people aware so they understand what safe is, and what is not safe. That was the goal for us,” Kanei says.
“When you walk on to a site, you hold a responsibility to make sure everyone is aware that this is a health and safety conscious worksite, and to make sure that you’re doing everything right.”
Knowing when to ask for help was a key focus of the sessions, he says.
“You are never going to know if you don’t ask, if you’re just saying ‘ah, she’ll be right’, and just jumping up. We all need to put our hands up and take some responsibility and become a bit more aware.”
In addition to the Scaffold Safety Sessions, AGL has implemented a raft of other internal health and safety initiatives, including:
Drug testing – all AGL workers undergo a pre-employment drug test, as well as regular random drug tests.
Worker engagement – AGL runs fortnightly BBQs to reward participation in health and safety. Last year the crew with the highest level of health and safety participation was rewarded with a $400 prize. The company also runs weekly leading hand meetings to highlight areas that may need improvement.
Toolbox Talks – AGL has found that by inviting guest speakers to their Toolbox Talks, they can boost interest and engagement amongst staff.
Site arrival – AGL workers have an established process to follow when they arrive on site, starting with sign in and then a Step Back 5x5. Workers are encouraged to think the job through by completing a hand-written, rather than electronic, Job Safety Analysis, which helps workers to better assess the hazards on-site.
In-house harness rescue - using a tower in their yard, AGL runs regular in-house rescue refresher sessions for staff.
Outcomes and benefits
Since running the Scaffold Safety Sessions, AGL has become an informal “go-to” for local companies with scaffold queries. The team are happy to provide information, and encourage people to have a constructive conversation with their scaffolding supplier.
Kanei says the team have received some great feedback and hope their work may help inspire other companies to “step up” in a similar way.
And while the events have undoubtedly helped raise the company’s profile and attract new clients, for AGL the ultimate accomplishment has been seeing the industry embrace the education it offered.
“It’s always been about making sure that everything on-site is done right,” Kanei says.
“For us, if we can save one person out of a 1000, that would make it all worth it. If we can do that for just one person out there, then we’ve done something right.”
If we can save one person out of a 1000, that would make it all worth it.