A Chat With Jeff Lane
National HSEQ Manager – Built
Tell us a bit about your background in safety and your work as National HSEQ Manager at Built.
I’ve been working in the construction industry for over 40 years – the first 20 on the project delivery side before moving into management roles in the field of health and safety, environment and quality, including the past 3 years here at Built as National HSEQ Manager.
In the early 1990s, when I first moved into the field of health and safety, there was little or no understanding in the industry of the concept of health and safety management systems and even less appreciation for the role culture plays in creating the conditions that allow accident and incident scenarios to develop. My earlier roles in project delivery, especially as a project manager, instilled in me a healthy regard for the challenges our project teams face in managing massive volumes of project documentation and information – including those governing HSEQ – which are considered necessary to meet legislative requirements, deliver a successful project, and manage the competing demands of time and budget.
As National HSEQ Manager at Built my work includes ensuring our safety culture continues to mature and our systems continue to meet the needs of the business, both serving to ensure our workplaces are safe. I work closely with the company’s business leaders in developing appropriate initiatives and programs which continue to define, reinforce and strengthen the safety culture at Built and share them with our subcontractor organisations. Adopting shared values and attitudes towards safety is as much a starting point as it is a challenge. Built’s progress in meeting this challenge with our staff, employees and subcontractors has largely been as a result of our executive and senior management consistently communicating our safety values and expected behaviours. Built’s values have been further reinforced through our internal training programs, including training programs for our subcontractors and their senior representatives. Identifying, communicating and monitoring safe systems of work remain as front-line defences but aligning people’s judgement of what’s important, countering negative or ambivalent attitudes and behaviours towards safety is where our efforts continue. I’m fortunate though to work in an organisation that is driven by a clear, common set of values and strong safety culture which is primarily based on a belief that safety leadership starts at the top.
How has FSC accreditation improved safety at Built?
Built obtained accreditation to the Australian Government Building and Construction WHS Accreditation Scheme in April 2010 and was subsequently re-accredited in April 2013. Our main driver for seeking accreditation at that time was following a major incident that occurred on one of our project sites in 2009 which fortunately did not result in any person being injured but had the potential to do so. At that time, the company was operating under a health and safety management system certified to AS 4801 but recognised the benefits of obtaining accreditation to the OFSC scheme, which was considered to represent a higher standard and criteria more specifically related to the building and construction industry. One of the benefits in developing and maintaining a health and safety system that meets the scheme’s criteria is undergoing independent audits from time to time on our system thereby providing an additional level of objectivity that the system is being implemented and maintained at an adequate level. Our safety culture has matured over the years where we can now say we have a shared set of values that include safety as our number one priority, safety is everyone’s responsibility, and every person has the right to return home safe at the end of each work day.
Could you please tell us about the NSW Construction Safety Education Forum, especially its membership, work and goals.
The Construction Safety Education Forum (CSEF) was originally formed in NSW in 1994 as the Safety Field Day Committee which held regular industry safety education ‘field days’ for WHS committee representatives, company delegates and general workers. In 2008 the group was renamed the Brian Miller Construction Safety Forum (BMCSF) in memory of Brian Miller, one of the founding members and main motivator of the original Safety Field Day Committee, who passed away in 2003. Over time the safety field days grew in popularity attracting a wide and diverse range of attendees, including construction supervisors, project managers and other senior management representatives from industry – one of the great legacies of this founding group. Today the field days are run every second month under the title of the CSEF, attracting on average 100 attendees including general managers, national and state WHS managers, project managers, site managers, company directors, WHS consultants, WHS consultation committee members, delegates, and general workers.
The BMCSF is an Industry Forum consisting of an Executive Committee and Membership Committee comprising major stakeholders including NSW WorkCover, NSW Master Builders Association, NSW CFMEU, NSW Public Works, Demolition Contractors Association, Civil Contractors Federation, NSW Roads and Maritime Services and various building and construction contractor organisations from a cross section of industry. The Forum maintains responsibility for organising the CSEF Field Days. Its specific aim is improving work health and safety in the building and construction industry by imparting knowledge acquired through research and experience and sharing this with the broader building and construction industry. In 2009 the CSEF was nominated for a WorkCover Award as the only industry forum of its kind providing educational support to the building and construction industry at no cost to the industry. In 2011 the CSEF received a ‘Highly Commended’ award for Leadership from WorkCover NSW and in 2012 the CSEF was honoured to win the prestigious WorkCover ‘Leadership in Safety Award’.
When were you appointed Secretary of the Forum? How did it feel to take up the role? What are your goals as Secretary?
I was nominated for the role of Secretary of the BMCSF by my peers in June this year and felt both honoured and privileged to be given the opportunity to play a more supportive and representative role on behalf of this unique, committed and like-minded group of industry stakeholders. The work that has been achieved to date by the Forum’s previous Executive Committee, made possible by their personal commitment and dedication to safety, is remarkable and to be commended. As Secretary my personal goal is to work closely with our very experienced and respectable Executive and Membership Committees to ensure the legacy and relevance of the Forum set by our predecessors continues. My hope is that the work of the BMCSF and CSEF continues to contribute to improving the industry’s performance, including improved health and safety outcomes for workers and others who may otherwise be affected by the work we as an industry undertake.
What do you think are the major safety issues facing the building and construction industry both currently and in the future? How is the Forum looking to tackle these issues?
Whilst the industry has matured and significantly improved over recent years, and even more noticeably from when I first entered the industry four decades ago, the major issue we continue to face is how to further reduce the fatality and serious injury rates that by any measure remain unacceptably high. The solution to this challenge is both complex and varied and whilst a ‘systems’ approach has helped to improve the industry’s performance, particularly over the past decade, we now have a better understanding that a systems approach alone is not enough. Two key aspects are now more generally accepted as being where significant industry focus is needed are safety culture and safety in design or ‘safe by design’, both of which are not well understood or implemented by the industry at large despite now being supported by the availability of an ever-increasing body of knowledge and research.
As an industry we have much to learn about culture and much to learn about what shapes the culture of our industry and how to influence attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of risk in order to create a common set of values and behaviours at the organisation, workgroup and individual level. If the industry were to place the same focus and priority on understanding safety culture and safety in design as it has placed over the past decade on understanding safety management systems and what it takes to meet legislative requirements, I believe we will begin to see the introduction of programs and initiatives addressing these important areas that will ultimately contribute to further reductions in accident and incident occurrences. This I believe is where the Forum can start to align our collective thinking and efforts.
Do you think the NSW Construction Safety Education Forum could work with the FSC to improve safety in the building and construction industry?
Most definitely. There has been a positive shift over the past two decades for the industry to work more collaboratively and to share information relating to health and safety matters which ultimately leads to improved outcomes for our industry. I think all companies generally seek to achieve this. There is strong evidence supporting the fact that the use of alliances in contractual relationships has significantly improved business performance and outcomes, including those specifically related to health and safety. The BMCSF and the CSEF are further testimony to the benefits to be gained from organisations from both the private and public sectors working together with a common set of shared values in an inclusive and consultative way. The BMCSF and FSC share the same aim in helping to improve the safety performance of the industry and would welcome the opportunity to work more collaboratively with the FCS to improve safety in the building and construction industry.
Built Pty Ltd
Established in 1998, Built is a privately-owned, diversified business operating across construction, refurbishment, and fit-out with annual revenue in excess of $700 million. The company has delivered world-class projects for brands as iconic as Louis Vuitton, Park Hyatt, Qantas, Dior, H&M, and Virgin Australia, as well as the growing QT brand for Australian Holdings Limited. Built operates a strong relationship-based business model successfully proven through a 70% repeat client base. With almost 500 staff in six state offices they have grown to become a significant participant in the country’s major property markets. Built’s outstanding safety performance at ‘The William’ in Melbourne’s CBD – a project with complex and unique high risk scenarios – was recently recognised at the MBA Excellence in Construction Awards, taking home the trophy for Excellence in Health & Safety.