Culture of safety key to the future

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE: Hunter Safety Awards founder Sarah-Jane Dunford is continually amazed at the improvements in WHS across Hunter-based businesses.

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE: Hunter Safety Awards founder Sarah-Jane Dunford is continually amazed at the improvements in WHS across Hunter-based businesses.

The idea for the Hunter Safety Awards first occurred with founder Sarah-Jane Dunford back in 2014.

As a Workplace, Health and Safety (WHS) consultant she had the opportunity to see up close and personal all the remarkable WHS ideas that small and medium-sized businesses (SME) in the region were implementing.

“On a weekly basis I was seeing the positive side of WHS, with organisations implementing some amazing things, some of them incremental changes, some of them wide-scale, some to do with software and policy, some to do with culture, some to do with product creation,” Ms Dunford said.

“But they all shared the same concept, which was to look at WHS as a positive element of their business, not a legislative requirement.”

Ms Dunford also recognised that many smaller businesses think that state awards are out of their reach, so she wanted to create an awards ceremony that was more accessible, and in that way to give them confidence to look at the state and national awards.

“We all know that it is the negative stories in the WHS space that get the most coverage and are talked about the most – but that’s not the case when it comes to these awards,” she said.

“All we can talk about is the positive! And there is so much happening, across all industries and within businesses of all sizes. This is evidenced by the diverse range of applicants, finalists, winners and sponsors that are involved in the awards.”

This year’s Safety Awards finalists have raised the bar.

“You would think that by now I wouldn’t be surprised  – but I still am!” Ms Dunford said.

“It really shows that WHS is vital in every business and there are wonderful things that can be done, no matter your product or service.”

For Ms Dunford,  shifting the mindset of business owners, managers and employees to embracing WHS from a cultural perspective, rather than a legislative perspective is key to ensuring everyone goes home safe every day.

“Safety and wellbeing shouldn’t be about ticking a box or creating a set and forget procedure or policy it needs to be about creating a workplace where people are thinking and working smart,” she said.