UPfront: Safety First Award For ACC

A work safety programme designed in the aftermath of the shocking murder of one of its staff has earned New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) one of United States-based HR Magazine’s 2002 Innovative Practices Awards.

The award, presented at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in Philadelphia recently, is the first given to company outside the US. It came on the third anniversary of the murder of ACC employer Janet Pike by client in her Auckland office.
That event, says ACC’s human resources manager John Saunders, was the catalyst for major review of the company’s existing health and safety programme. “What we had in place at that time met all OSH requirements but that wasn’t the issue. We really had to live it – to become exemplars of what we were doing with regard to safety.

“Injury prevention and safety at work is absolutely critical as far as this organisation is concerned and we wanted to set up programme that advanced that position throughout our operation.” Global research into what other companies offered didn’t produce any models to emulate, so they designed their own. The resulting “WorkSAFE” programme encompasses staff training, safety rules and procedures, handbooks and online publications.

All staff are trained to recognise and handle aggressive behaviour and threatening situations – and to understand how their own behaviour can affect others. The emphasis is on keeping safe and leaving an interview room (now physically designed to allow rapid exit) as soon as any concerns arise. Staff are also trained to politely disengage if phone calls become abusive, and the company offers professional supervision to debrief staff who’ve been on the receiving end of such calls.

Staff have reacted positively to the changes and the WorkSAFE programme continues to evolve, says Saunders.

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