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Sutherland Shire Council – A Proactive Approach: Engaging an Entire Workforce in Improving Safety Culture

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By The National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP)

The Sutherland Shire Council (SSC) has changed its safety culture from reactive to a proactive management state, consulting and encouraging buy-in from its entire workforce at every step of the way, and using incidents and data gathered as opportunities for improvement rather than punishment.

SSC operates more than 350 major fleet assets engaged across a diverse range of service activities and environments. This includes 133 Light Vehicles, 177 Heavy Vehicles, and 46 Waste Fleet. Half of its fleet is categorised as high to extreme in operating risk and SSC had a genuine concern and interest in minimising potential

fleet safety impacts on its community and vulnerable road users.

SSC recognised that moving from a reactive to a proactive road and workplace safety culture led to several key outcomes including the following:

  • A proactive safety culture can change an organisation’s focus from ‘reacting’ to safety incidents to preventing them
  • It is possible to change from a reactive to a proactive safety culture, but it takes time, patience, and persistence
  • There is a strong long link between stronger business performance and improved safety, recognising and leveraging that connection can be a powerful tool in making safety an organisational priority
  • Consultation on decisions that impact their everyday working life is key to engaging workers with, and increasing their acceptance of, safety measures
  • Getting the buy-in of management is critical in improving safety culture and performance; showing the ‘costs’ of inaction or the return on investment of a more effective approach attracts attention
  • Technology can help prevent incidents and showing how it can help workers and make them safer in their everyday operations can overcome resistance
  • Not all issues need to be addressed or safety measures introduced at the same time – safety is a journey and continually addressing ‘gaps’ results in strong overall road and workplace safety systems.

The full case study of how Sutherland Shire Council moved to a proactive safety culture can be downloaded here.