Sione Lolohea - APS Ltd
Congratulations to Sione Lolohea at APS Ltd for taking out the Safety Contribution Award at the 2018 Site Safe Health and Safety Awards.
Sometimes a near miss is a wake-up call which can change lives. We spoke to award winner Sione Lolohea and the General Manager of APS, David Karam, about how one man’s journey is helping to transform attitudes to health and safety company wide.
A nationwide commercial property maintenance specialist, APS is a multi-trade business, employing roofers, builders, painters and working at height specialists. A builder by trade, Sione was recruited into the heights team eight years ago. After an early mistake where he was spotted wearing an unattached harness, Sione was quick to reform his ways and adopt the APS approach to safety.
It was a change of attitude which probably saved his life, David says.
“About 12 months later, Sione was installing a fall arrest system on a brittle roof, when the sheet exploded, and he fell eight to 10 metres towards the concrete floor. Thankfully he had installed a temporary fall arrest system which stopped his fall in mid-air. He was able to abseil to the ground without a scratch.”
His lucky escape made him an overnight hero within the company, David says.
“He had turned a huge corner of his life and stepped up, and from that point onwards the team saw him as a bit of a hero. He really woke up to the risks that we are exposed to and the impact he can have as a leader and a senior member of the team.”
The near miss experience also gave Sione a unique advantage as the senior heights trainer he went on to become.
“Having had that experience gives his training such a level of realism. He’s become an invaluable team member and made quite a cultural shift for both himself and for those around him.”
Sione now works with all new abseilers as a coach and mentor, and inducts new employees to the heights team. In his role as both site supervisor and trainer, Sione has become an “incredible role model” for the rest of the team.
“For us, we are able to utlise his skills and mana to our advantage – we can get up and preach about safety…but nothing brings it home to the guys like his story about that near miss experience – and how if he hadn’t learnt from that he would have been dead or crippled today.”
“There’s so many guys that think that they are bullet proof, and Sione has a great story to tell them.”
Sione’s “gentle giant” personality also makes him an ideal coach, David says.
“He’s not bolshy or arrogant, he’s a quiet guy with a big smile and an incredibly giving person - the sort of guy who will give after hours help and volunteers to come in on the weekend. He’s just very giving and thoughtful – if anyone needs a hand, he’s always willing to help.”
Encouraging and promoting leaders like Sione is a central part of APS’ safety philosophy.
“The thing that changes safety in a company are people like Sione,” David says.
“At APS we’ve developed and raised the profile of leading hands - increased their mana, respect and pay. The leaders of safety at APS are the Siones of the world.
“We’re always asking what our workers need, rather than trying to impose things on them from above – we’ve developed and designed our policies with the boys as a team.
For Sione, winning the Site Safe award was a big honour, but it’s really all about helping his team mates.
“I like to share the knowledge and skills that I’ve gained in health and safety, and what I’ve learned so far at APS.
“The guys all come from different backgrounds, and it’s great to see them evolve from a nervous person when they first start, to getting the confidence and sharing their own knowledge amongst the team.”
“Every time we are up on the roof, we are putting ourselves on the line, so we need to trust each other and know that everyone is taking safety seriously.”
"Nothing brings it home to the guys like his story about that near miss experience – and how if he hadn’t learnt from that he would have been dead or crippled today.”