Detailed planning, a commitment to safety and collaboration with staff have helped Fulton Hogan clock up a million man hours without a lost time injury at Melbourne Airport.
The impressive feat across several projects over some nine years is testament to a long commitment to safe working practices.
The veteran engineering enterprise is a well-known name on Australian airports, growing from humble beginnings in 1933 to a company employing more than 7800 people across Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
National airports manager Jim Parsons said safety is a concept embedded in all its operations.
“We have committed to put people at the heart of everything we do, and safety is done at work and at home,” Parsons told the Australian Airports Association annual conference on the Gold Coast.
“We actively engage in a collaborative approach — every voice matters.”
Parsons said on the conference sidelines that the company’s inherent safety culture stretched back many years and had been bolstered by having oil company Shell as a partner.
“But for me it’s about two key points: education and awareness,” he said.
“So that’s what I consider to be the overarching principles behind trying to keep everyone safe.”
Parsons said this was a case of staff educating themselves about where the dangers were, what they should do and how they should act, as well as awareness of what was happening around them and the things that could injure them.
“Education also gets down to being trained in what you’re doing and licenses to operate the right plant and equipment,” he added.
“So it is really personal for everyone and that’s really important I believe.
“You look after yourself, you look after your mates.”
Parsons revealed in his presentation that the Melbourne success story was the result of a continuous review of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) systems.
Workplace Risk Assessment documents were airport-specific and reviewed every six months, and Fulton Hogan held specific inductions for key contractors to ensure they were aware of safety expectations and traffic management plans.
Other measures included training and procedures for working with hazardous substances as well as poster campaigns identifying expected behaviour and safety outcomes.
Risk management programs looked at the three common operational risks: airside traffic movements, late handovers and working with Airservices Australia on operational issues.
Access points were important, and the company went as far as to engineer specific stairs, access bridges and walkways to access the site.
This included delineation between pedestrian and work areas as well as designated pedestrian crossings.
Planning extended to detailed traffic management, and workers wore white overalls at night to boost visibility.
Airside movements were reduced to those necessary and the system for crossing taxiways was simplified.
Critical controls were put in place to manage mobile plant movements to minimise collisions and serious injury to ground personnel.
This included identifying the critical risk group on mobile plant and the use of spotters to control plant movements.
Spotters were required to maintain positive eye-to-eye contact with plant operators and were used with any machine that reversed frequently. These machines were also fitted with reversing cameras as an extra precaution.
Radio communication was used for entry or exit to the site and between movements.
Site access permission slips and vehicle dashboard displays were also standard practice when accessing airside.
In terms of management of fatigue and morale, Fulton Hogan planned for day works where possible and developed a site-specific fatigue management plan.
There were dedicated day and night crews that were rotated as well as training and education, monitoring and a confidential helpline for workers.
Parsons noted that celebrating successes helped boost morale and staff that went above and beyond were rewarded.
The company recognised and rewarded “positive behaviour” champions with gift vouchers and special recognition at team meetings.
Workers were also kept informed and involved with the proactive delivery of information at weekly “toolbox” sessions outlining project expectations as well as key lessons and feedback.
Any topics or issues raised from the floor were acted upon and closed immediately.
Ongoing site monitoring showed this helped workers to feel empowered and Parson said the focus on health and well-being led to good staff retention.
In terms of leadership development and engagement, Parsons said the various projects at the airport had enabled the company to develop leaders.
Senior managers took an active part in employee development and graduate engineers were rotated across different disciplines to ensure they learned different facets of project delivery such as services, earthworks, pavements and drainage.
A mentor was always close at hand to give advice and training needs were routinely discussed with employees and managers to ensure any gaps were filled.
By Steve Creedy
About Steve Creedy
An award-winning journalist, Steve began covering aviation in the United States in the early nineties before returning to Australia later that decade and editing The Australian’s aviation section for 17 years. He is editor of Airline Ratings and has co-authored books on industry initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.
Steve has joined the AAA to write interesting and informative editorial on the aviation industry.