Tim Cotton

Workplace Health Safety Environment & Quality (WHSEQ) Site Manager – McMahon Services


Tell us a bit about yourself, your career with McMahon Services and your background in safety.


I started with McMahon Services in 2009 as a demolition labourer. Within a few months I had a permanent position offered within the Demolition Division. The following year during the demolition of an old classroom I sustained an unfortunate injury to my left eye, which finished my labouring career and resulted in a loss of 98% vision in the affected eye. After four surgeries and countless months off work I was pushing to return to work, but how? All my plans and directions were put to rest from the incident.

I went back to work at McMahon Services’ office in Dry Creek performing alternate duties such as archiving and data entry activities. During this time I started to work closely with the WHSEQ team and demonstrated an interest for OHS, which was fed by the experience from my incident (and still is). Once I was cleared by the Doctor to resume normal working hours I was offered a position within the Demolition Division as a Safety Supervisor for a large project commencing in the Adelaide CBD. As this was my first project in the safety role I learned rather quickly, being mentored by some highly experienced OHS Managers, which increased my knowledge considerably. From here I worked on one other project as a Safety Supervisor prior to commencing the Adelaide Oval Redevelopment project.

You managed to complete the high risk demolition and salvage work on the Adelaide Oval Redevelopment with no safety incidents recorded. How did you achieve this result?


Consultation with the Baulderstone project management, our employees and our subcontractors played a pivotal role in the successful delivery of the project. Communication methods were varied, including electronic correspondence via email and the project centre, along with verbal consultation on site, daily pre-start meetings and weekly toolbox talks with site personnel. Discussion with personnel regarding tasks and methods of execution was the key to giving ownership to individuals, which in turn provides not only best practice but clear instructions for the task at hand.

Baulderstone conducted weekly site safety meetings which gave all contractors on site an opportunity to voice safety issues as well as discuss potential solutions for problems raised. This information was addressed to all McMahon Services site personnel during the weekly toolbox meeting, which was forwarded on to senior management for review. The Site Supervisor and I conducted weekly toolbox meetings to capture any issues from the past week’s work activities, future work activities, hazards identified within the workplace and review site documentation such as Job Safety Analyses (JSA) and audit reports. Another item shared amongst the team during the toolbox was workplace hazards or safety alerts. These always served as a good reminder to all about adhering to the procedures set out as well as the importance of not becoming complacent. Daily pre-starts were utilised each day to remind personnel of the hazards on site and the activities to be undertaken for the day.

What were the key safety challenges you faced during the Adelaide Oval project and how did you overcome them?


A key challenge of managing safety was the size of the site and number of activities to be undertaken at once. This was managed by establishing three separate demolition sites within the one larger site, each having its own supervisor, a crew of skilled demolition labourers and various plant and equipment. Each site was delineated with hard barrier fencing to prevent unauthorised access, along with adequate signage warning of the dangers. This ensured that the personnel within each demolition site were inducted into the activities being undertaken and fully aware of the risks involved within these individual boundaries. During demolition activities, ADZs (Active Demolition Zones) were established within each site to delineate areas even further.

To organise so many activities at once, all supervisors would make vital safety information accessible each morning. The information was utilised within pre-start meetings and was available any time of the day, particularly to project management at Baulderstone. The information included the type of works occurring, hazards within the area, current up to date JSAs, equipment being used, permit requirements and the names of the all personnel allocated to the area.

What were some of the challenges associated with managing subcontractors? How were you able to overcome them?


Subcontractors can be a challenge to manage due to many factors such as barriers with understanding the requirements for site, never having had the chance to work with the subcontractor in the past and not knowing how they work, lack of boundaries to work within from past jobs and having to adjust their own culture and practices to suit the site’s and McMahon Services’ requirements.

Being upfront from the start and requesting appropriate documentation early was the key for this project as it gave me the chance to review their suite of documents and ensure they were compliant prior to starting on site. This not only eliminates delays but also reduces the conflict between the companies and paves the way for a healthy relationship on site.

Where subcontractors’ documentation was not compliant I took the time to sit with them to review the documents and amend where necessary. This not only achieved compliance but gave the subcontractors a better understanding of legislative requirements.

You were commended on your safety documentation. Can you tell us about this and how important “getting it right” with your safety documentation is to site safety?


Developing documentation correctly plays a key part in any task associated work as it provides vital information regarding appropriate practices, procedures and sequencing to pull together an efficient project correctly delivered without incident.

Managing works that are new to personnel you must have detailed information regarding associated hazards and how to mitigate the risk accordingly as we cannot assume knowledge and have to ensure the intent is clear. Utilising OHS documentation to a company’s advantage not only complies with legislation and prevents injury to our workers but also passes on vital knowledge from the experienced workers to a new generation, sustaining a productive workforce for the future.

How did it feel to win the SafeWork SA Award for Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety by an OHS Manager?


Being acknowledged for my work was a fantastic feeling, especially because I enjoy the work that I do and have a genuine passion for the role. The fact that I have been recognised with such an award so early in my career really highlighted how far I had come from my injury as well as the potential I may have with a few more years’ experience to come.

It has also been great to meet so many different people in the industry, which not only makes for great networking but also sharing of OHS matters across the board. Exchanging problems and solutions regarding many issues is a great way to mitigate risk as the concepts created can be applied to most cases on various avenues of work.

As winner of the SafeWork SA Award for Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety by an OHS Manager Tim became a finalist in the 2013 Safe Work Australia Awards. Tim competed in the category Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety by a Work Health and Safety Manager.

The Project


McMahon Services was engaged by head contractor Baulderstone for all demolition and salvage works for the highly anticipated $350.2 million Adelaide Oval Redevelopment in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD. McMahon Services deconstructed the Bradman Stand, Chappell Stands, Clem Hill Stand, Indoor Cricket Centre, South Australian Cricket Association offices and various other structures within the precinct.

Baulderstone—the head contractor for the Adelaide Oval Redevelopment project—had clear expectations of subcontractors such as McMahon Services on the subject of safety, which shaped the approach McMahon Services took to managing safety during the demolition phase. The project demanded a highly accelerated eight week program in which three separate demolition sites within the one work site were established and run simultaneously for the duration of the project. The team consisted of three Supervisors, one Safety Supervisor (Tim) and approximately 25 personnel to perform the high risk demolition works over a seven day shift rotation and reported zero Lost Time Injuries (LTI) and zero Medically Treated Injuries (MTI). McMahon Services also engaged and managed three subcontractors to perform certain works on the project such as service disconnection, scaffolding and tree removal.

McMahon Services


McMahon Services is a privately owned industrial, construction and environmental service provider. Established in 1990 by brothers David and Andrew McMahon, McMahon Services has grown from a team of 12 into a national business. With offices in South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, they employ more than 450 staff and operate across Australia, from city centres to remote locations. As a multi-disciplinary, full service provider, McMahon use their own direct wage staff and boast a $50 million network of modern company-owned plant and equipment. McMahon Services were awarded Accreditation under the Australian Government Building and Construction Industry OHS Accreditation Scheme in 2009.