A Chat With John Jenkins
Can you briefly describe the greatest safety challenge facing Ri-con?
Remote Area Management.
Working in some of Australia’s most challenging environments, logistics can be a key challenge for construction projects. Ri-con has developed a comprehensive national logistics network over the years, to ensure the delivery of building materials, food supplies and camp essentials are delivered to the right place at the right time. The setting up of camps in areas which may have no power, water or other services requires thorough planning and experience to create working environments which are not only safe, but provide a level of comfort for employees and subcontractors alike.
Ensuring the health and safety of our workers, subcontractors, visitors as well as the wider community, at all times in remote locations requires an expert approach. We have developed our own systems which we have tailored to suit remote construction. Critical to our systems success is maintaining continuous lines of communication with onsite staff with their support teams at head office. Although remote in location, our project consultation, reporting and communication requirements are often more comprehensive than if the project were local.
Health and safety training is mandatory for all staff and contractors working for Ri-con. Our Work Health and Safety Advisor develops and delivers safety training to Project and Site Managers and they, in turn, deliver material to staff and contractors on site.
To ensure our staff have access to the same health services in metropolitan areas; we have developed relationships with medical centres throughout the communities we work in.
Language and cultural understanding can be barriers for our Indigenous trainees and employees as well as with the communities that we work with. As part of our proactive approach to these issues, we have an Indigenous Development Manager that provides comprehensive briefing information for all site inductions as well as providing literacy and numeracy training to overcome any challenges for the local workers.
What additional safety challenges exist for work in regional and remote areas? How are you overcoming them?
Australia’s remote regions are variable, extreme and un-predictable. Consistently delivering high quality projects in remote environments presents a number of safety challenges, but it is these challenges that drive the innovation and commitment of our professional team.
Being remote sites, staff are accommodated in camps on or near the construction site and we are responsible for our workforce 24 hours a day. As such, we have introduced very robust policies around social behaviour which are randomly checked and reinforced.We also complete in depth site inductions and undertake regular Toolbox talks with a focus not only on health and safety, but also hygiene, environmental and cultural relation topics.
Each of our project managers and site managers adhere to our well understood remote journey management system – a buddy type system established to ensure staff arrive and leave site as and when expected.
Whilst we actively encourage training and continued learning for all our staff, the company is developing a very specific training scheme, an Aboriginal Workforce Development Strategy, enabling indigenous workers to enter the building and construction workforce equipped with the knowledge, skills and understandings needed to gain and sustain employment and maintain social health and stability.
The lessons learned during every project help us to refine our approach to the continued delivery of excellent service and lasting value in regional and remote Australian communities.
This important milestone for Ri-con has provided us with yet another motivating force to drive success, push for performance and continually improve our systems.
We pride ourselves on being leaders in the setting of and adherence to the highest levels of Construction Work Health and Safety in the Kimberley and all other regions and communities in which we work. We are proud of our safe working history and safety performance is continuously monitored and reviewed.
Ri-con’s philosophy of ‘whatever it takes’ for construction workplace safety, has been proactively taken on-board in leaps and bounds. With the unlimited support and determination of our Executive Management, Construction Teams and Site Crew, our goal of achieving and maintaining the highest level of construction safety is now a reality.
This achievement to focus on safety as a critical and core element of our commitment to remote construction has also opened up new opportunities across remote Australia.
You recently achieved accreditation. What outcomes are you hoping to achieve through accreditation, and what advice would you offer companies that are considering applying.
The advice I can provide to companies wishing to apply for accreditation under The Australian Government Building and Construction OHS Accreditation Scheme is to start with absolute commitment - without absolute commitment the journey could be a mission rather than an opportunity. Companies should ensure that their OHS Management System is a core element of their business and is constantly monitored and maintained to the highest possible level. This will guarantee a positive outcome for everyone. One of the outcomes we were hoping for was a ‘higher commitment to safety’ - so we are already another step closer; Ri-con is always looking for improvement opportunities and ways to evolve the company to do smarter, safer and better business.
John Jenkinks has been the Managing Director of Ri-con Contractors for almost 10 years and has seen a lot of change and growth in that time. He originally trained as a carpenter in the UK over 20 years ago, and has worked in the building industry ever since.
John regularly visits current projects and spends time with staff on site to ensure that Ri-con Contractors are delivering best practice, safe construction solutions for their clients, staff, subcontractors and the wider community.
Some of the projects John has been personally involved with include:
- El Questro Station, Kimberley, WA : Design and construct Tourist Accommodation
- Home Valley Station, Kimberley, WA – Design and construct Tourism Accommodation
- Warmun, Turkey Creek WA – Design & Construct 20 houses after flood devastation
- Dunk Island & Bedarra Island, QLD : Cyclone damage reconstruction
He has also been responsible for many government owned and privately owned residential and commercial projects largely in some of Australia’s most remote areas, including numerous Indigenous Housing projects for the Western Australian Government.
Ri-con Contractors Pty Ltd
Ri-con Contractors Pty Ltd is an award winning, remote area construction specialist with a focus and commitment to the northern remote reaches of Australia, including areas from the Kimberley in Western Australia to the Islands off the coast of Queensland. With over 30 years solid industry experience, Ri-con’s expertise is in residential construction and refurbishment, commercial and industrial construction, Design and construct, Project management and disaster relief work. Ri-con has successfully completed many high quality projects for government and private clients in some of the most isolated and environmentally sensitive regions in Australia, making them a leader in remote area construction.