Dialling up workplace safety and culture

Vicki Wust has helped Fenner Dunlop reduce its number of workplace injuries.

Fenner Dunlop general manager of safety, training & technical Vicki Wust has enjoyed a fulfilling career highlighted by how she has accelerated greater safety awareness and skills at the company. 

The 2021 Deloitte Tracking the Trends report established that many mining companies have switched their focus to intensive training to ensure workplace safety requirements are met.

Deloitte’s report found that COVID-19 increased the industry’s focus on safety, bringing with it a more attuned awareness of worker actions and movement. 

This approach reinforces the importance of stringent safety practices across all fields of mining as a key pillar driving the industry forward. 

To achieve zero harm in a mining-related workplace, Deloitte encourages the industry to improve its internal controls and act on early warning signs for potential hazards.

“This underscores the very real need for some companies to improve their internal controls,” Deloitte Peru mining & metals partner Karla Velasquez says.

Fenner Dunlop, a company closely tied to the mining industry by its materials handling solutions, has demonstrated this focus by significantly reducing its workplace-related injuries through an increase in skills and safety education and training. 

This achievement has been guided by the ethos brought forth by Fenner Dunlop general manager of safety, training & technical Vicki Wust. 

“My main motivation is making sure that all our employees get home safe and enjoy their family life outside of work,” Wust tells Safe to Work. 

“It’s really important when bringing in new entrants we make sure they go out into the field with basic concepts to keep themselves safe and those around them.”

In 2006, Wust started her journey at Fenner Dunlop as the company’s human resources (HR) and safety coordinator in both Mackay and Emerald, Queensland.

Wust then headed Fenner Dunlop’s RTO (registered training organisation) while working as the company’s QLD HR manager. 

She was then transferred to Western Australia to become the national training manager and Fenner Dunlop’s Western Australia HR business partner. 

After transitioning to her current role in January 2019, Wust overhauled much of Fenner Dunlop’s safety culture, impacting it in a positive manner that has led to improvements right through to the chain of command. 

Under Wust’s guidance, Fenner Dunlop has reduced its number of workplace injuries, far exceeding the company’s targets over the past two years.

“We’ve had a 58 per cent decline in the total recordable injury frequency rate and a 64.7 per cent in our severity rates, which is an extraordinary collective team effort and you couldn’t do it if everybody wasn’t on board,” Wust says. 

The backbone to Wust’s safety strategy is to adopt a universal approach that spans throughout the company’s workforce and is designed to encourage everyone to play a part. 

“We need to keep safety simple so that everyone understands, and they can adopt safe systems to work at all level – don’t overcomplicate it,” Wust explains. 

“I find that sometimes senior management will understand it but when it gets to floor level, there’s no way they’re going to know how to actually put it into practice if we overcomplicate it.”

Backed by the support of Fenner Dunlop’s management team, Wust says it’s important to build a safety culture from the ground up. 

In 2018, Wust established a Fenner Dunlop mechanical practical training facility in Western Australia that provides hands-on experience to encourage risk reduction among the company’s mechanical technicians. 

Wust says the facility focusses on identifying hazards and learning how to manage risks.

“For many years, there has never been any industry specific formal training programs for mechanical technicians,” she says. 

“We’re utilising a live conveyor system that provides hands on experience and they’re able to increase their risk perception around the conveyor while being mentored by a qualified trainer/assessor.

“The program focusses on identifying hazards and risk reduction when carrying out conveyor maintenance.”

Fenner Dunlop’s belt splicing traineeship was trade recognised in Western Australia in 2019, after first being recognised in Queensland in 2009. 

According to Wust, the apprenticeship is significant for the entire industry, as it provides experience in the field.

“Through our enterprise RTO we provide a pathway for new entrants to become skilled workers and an integral part of that is to instil safety conscious attitudes amongst them right from the start,” Wust says. 

“We start with safe work practice foundation building, and as they go through their career journey they embed hazard identification and risk management skills to safely undertake their belt splicing duties. 

“They just don’t get a procedural knowledge, they actually get a practical hands-on experience of what they’re actually doing in the field and an awareness and familiarisation of the tools and equipment required to perform the job.” 

Wust has also bolstered Fenner Dunlop’s safety procedures by collaborating with SafetyCircle, using direct language and simple ideas that can improve safety culture in an easy-to-understand process.

While it’s important for any company to improve safety, it is vital for Fenner Dunlop’s personnel, who work alongside large conveyor systems.

“It’s high-risk work and without basic fundamental skills and building safe behaviours, we’re putting not only our new entrants at risk but those who are experienced as well,” Wust says.

“Making sure we have that built from the ground up and making sure our people are supported and have the framework to administer safe systems – that is fundamental in being able to provide a safe workforce.” 

This story also appears in the May issue of Safe To Work.

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