How a small business WHS overhaul led to financial returns and multiple awards

WHS return on investment

The “VacuCobra” has taken the stress off workers’ backs.

Significant investment into improved WHS systems and culture has lead to increased productivity, staff retention and morale for Sydney-based business, Zetco Valves.

General Manager of Zetco, Scott Michaels told ProChoice Safety Gear that more than $100,000 has been spent on implementing the systems which resulted in both a NSW Workcover and WorkSafe Australia award for “best workplace health and safety practices in a small business”.

With Zetco employees spending significant periods standing and handling heavy materials, Scott said preventing lower back injuries was a major driver of the WHS systems implementation.

“We hadn’t experienced a lower back injury but knew it was only a matter of time,” he said.

Resultantly, a motorised packing line, wave platforms and a vacuum lifting system were installed. Anti-fatigue mats and extensive visual signage were also placed throughout the warehouse and roof ventilation installed to improve the working environment.

“We are getting a huge return on that investment. It’s a huge driver of productivity because it takes the physical stress off the employee,” Scott said.

“It’s not just about eliminating the risk of an accident; it’s about employee health and ensuring a comfortable working environment.”

Evidence that staff are happy can be found in Zetco’s average employee tenure of nearly five years.

Scott said risk mitigation and improvement of productivity were not the only drivers of their investment.

“If you want to be a quality company then this has to be represented throughout the business. It’s about the people, processes and branding. A safe and healthy working culture has to be part of that.”

The cultural change has seen the establishment of a WHS committee with all members obtaining Diplomas in Work Health and Safety.

“We have also implemented a quality circle that sits parallel to the WHS committee. Employees meet monthly to talk about improving the operations,” Scott said, adding that this staff input and ownership of WHS has enhanced the safe work culture.

“We are proactive in what we are doing. If someone presents us with a potential safety issue, we fix it.”

However Scott said that the initial system’s implementation was met with some resistance from employees.

“Breaking down the old habits and having employees follow new disciplines was a challenge that took a good 12 to 18 months to overcome.”

He knew that successfully building a new safe work system from the ground up required they seek WHS knowledge in the recruitment process.

“Time is a factor because you’ve always got limited resources in a small business,” he said, adding that much of their system’s success can be credited to his warehouse manager, Steve McAndrew.

“Steve has been a huge driver of safety within the company.”

Scott also champions drawing upon the resources of the companies who supply Zetco’s capital equipment.

”They provided us with a great deal of consultancy. We communicated the outcomes we wanted and they assisted us in achieving that,” he said.

Since winning the 2013 state award and the 2014 national award, Zetco continues to strive for WHS excellence with the company now certified to the Australian Standard 4801 – the voluntary standard for OHS Management Systems.

“We now approach everything with safety front of mind. We don’t see it as a cost, we see it as delivering value.”


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