October saw our second successful annual HSER Forum, supported by APPEA and held at the Darwin Convention Centre, with 61 delegates representing 23 Member Companies, contractors, and regulatory bodies in attendance – a fabulous turnout.

Themed ‘Listen.  Share.  Learn.’, attendees started the Forum with some ‘Listening’, via an introduction and briefing by excellent emcee Cassy Schmidt (Program Director at National Decommissioning Research Initiative (NDRI)) – who we must begin by acknowledging for her outstanding facilitation of both the HSER Form and the afternoon's Industry Safety Forum (ISF), seamlessly linking all the sessions together with immaculate time keeping, erudition and humour.

Phil Reid (Vice President Change Integration Australian Operations, Woodside) opened the event, recapping what the HSERs had asked for at the 2021 Forum, and what the Safer Together working groups have done to respond. Phil noted that even with all we are doing to improve safety, the number of dangerous occurrences and injuries are increasing, highlighting the critical role HSERs play at the frontline helping people to stay safe.

Following Phil was Safer Together's Tom Pettitt (Principal Consultant, Safer Together) facilitating an ice breaker activity – the excellent initiative, Helping Hands.

Helping Hands is an engaging practical activity with participants working in teams of 4 to build a prosthetic hand for land mine victims in the developing world; doing so with their dominant hand out of action to have a taste of life without a dominant limb, to motivate participants to improve hand safety at their workplaces and homes.

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Several participants stated, "this was the best safety activity they had ever experienced".

Facilitated by Brett Howard (Director of Subsea Projects and Operations, TechnipFMC, next up our attendees each completed a Safety Culture Survey.

Brett first explained the tool, with delegates then undertaking the Survey. HSERs met later in the morning to receive the Survey data output in real time to validate findings – as the findings were then being presented at the afternoon's ISF.

This represents a ground-breaking industry first, with a cross-section of industry front line workers (HSERs) completing the Safety Culture Survey, rather than a company, division, a work group, or team.

The intent behind this bold step was:

  1. To empower frontline HSERs and provide them with an opportunity to speak up without workplace pressures; and to be heard as a cohort of HSERs (rather than employees of a specific company), and
  2. To find out what the frontline HSERs are seeing on the ground and to use this as an opportunity for industry to learn, with this information to be used to help inform planning into the future.

Morning tea provided HSERs with an opportunity to mingle with members of our WA/NT Safety Leaders Group and the regulatory community.

Back in the room, and next up was the regulator Panel Session, with the panel consisting of: 

  • Peggy Cheong (Acting Executive Director, NT Worksafe)
  • Justine McGillivray (Principal Inspector Mental Health and Wellbeing, DMIRS)
  • Derrick O’Keeffe (Head of Division, Safety, and Integrity, NOPSEMA)

Each panel member shared their respective organisation’s function, and its views with respect to psychological safety and mental health - before an open panel session was held.

Justin McGillivray, as a subject matter expert in this area was particularly well received by all and will no doubt be called upon for future events.

Following the panel session theme, was Tom Coolican (Executive General Manager - West, Upstream Production Solutions) with his presentation on ‘Creating a Psychologically Safe Workplace’.

Tom walked attendees through the Safer Together campaign materials developed for ‘Stand Together for Safety’ month, including the very powerful video of an evocative poem designed to spark conversations at the worksite. He encouraged all HSERs in attendance to download the materials and use them to facilitate a discussion at their next toolbox talk.

Phil Reid then re-took the stage, to walk HSERs new and old through all the materials available in Safer Together HSER Engagement Framework, showing delegates the HSER toolkit promotional video and pointing HSERs in the right direction to access materials on the Safer Together website.

The final part of the day was a poll of attendees.

We learned that 35 delegates in the room were not receiving Safer Together quarterly HSER Connect bulletin – so we signed them up!

Requests for content in future HSER Connect bulletin gave a clear need for more work to be done and shared in the mental health space, with HSERs asking themselves the question:

1. “How can my organisation help?” 

The response:

  • By providing dedicated HSER training,
  • By providing time to dedicate to the HSER role and
  • By providing support to comprehensively perform the HSER role.

2. What can Safer Together do?  

The response:

  • By continuing to conduct Forums like this one,
  • By sharing information and communicating learnings.

Safer Together, along with relevant Working Groups and stakeholders will use this information to inform planning into the future

The true highlight of the day came in the afternoon at the Industry Safety Forum, when 2 HSERs presented the findings of the mornings HSER Safety Culture Survey and poll to the 150 delegates.

A huge shout-out to Isaac Kennedy (HSER, Shell) and Katie Latimore (Operations Technician & HSER, Santos).

These two intelligent, articulate, and courageous HSERs had come to the morning's Forum as a delegate, not expecting to present. Their leadership skills were identified during the Helping Hands activity, and we asked them on the spot if they would be willing to present findings from the morning's Survey and poll on behalf their fellow HSERs at the ISF later in the day.

To their credit, they both accepted and absolutely shone – especially considering it was a first for both Katie and Isaac speaking publicly.   

All the ISF representatives present were busy taking notes and hanging off every word as Katie and Isaac gave a rare insight into what HSERs are seeing and experiencing at the front line.

ISF delegates were pleased to see that HSERs don’t have a problem when it comes to speaking up about safety. They also noted and shared the HSERs concern that the impact of maintenance deferred (during COVID) may have on safety.

More detailed results from the Safety Culture Survey and poll will be shared in the Q4 HSER Connect bulletin and shared with the SLG to guide their 2023 planning.

Thank you to APPEA for their support of this successful 2022 HSER Forum, setting the bar high for 2023!

Cassy Schmidt, emcee for both the HSER Forum and ISF said, “Thanks to Safer Together for bringing people together!

The HSERs, after spending the morning working together, making connections, and discussing the new and old trends impacting their workforces, have been able to leave the room with a greater understanding of the tools available to support them, and will take away some great conversation starters when they return to site.”

For further information regarding the HSER role, to sign up for future events or to receive the HSER Connect bulletin, contact: [email protected].