The Department of Corrections operates 20 prisons housing over 8,000 prisoners. Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) employees 2,500 offenders in a wide variety of industry sectors including farming and horticulture, internal printing, laundries, catering and grounds management, concrete products and light engineering, forestry joinery and processing.
Management’s goal was to consistently model best practice for its health and safety policies, practices, and physical environment, plus achieve excellence with healthy and safe behaviour, both for staff, and offenders involved in CIE programmes.
After addressing the physical hazards such as safety guards for machines and task analysis, management’s next priority was to improve health and safety compliance and engagement. There was a clear “need to know more about the reasons why staff and offenders behave in certain ways”, and obtain a baseline assessment and plan for ongoing improvement.
‘Safety’ for offenders in CIE employment involved not only occupational safety but also safety from the behaviour of other offenders. Including some offenders in determining the safety culture would send a strong signal that their safety was integral to achieving a healthy and productive workplace at CIE.
Management was reluctant to embark on “just another survey”. Safety and its continual improvement was a high priority and any intervention needed to achieve results. They recognised the need to work through a culture improvement process, and to build a strong brand to engage offenders and employees into an ongoing safety improvement programme that could also be tailored to the rest of the organisation.
Two Healthy and Productive Workplace Surveys were implemented, one across CIE employees and the other across a representative sample of offenders.
Our surveys gathered data about leading indicators of safety, and provided specific information about areas of strength and where ‘culture’ posed a risk. We facilitated focus groups to provide additional information about themes that emerged.
After results were communicated throughout the organisation a strategy and plan was developed for achieving a health and safety culture of excellence. This was subsequently rolled out and linked to a goal to improve its Health and Safety Index by a further 10%. A new policy was developed to create a Just Culture focused on learning and working safely, and managers tasked with reporting on progress with action plans. Serious harm accidents have reduced from 18 to zero.