Contact Energy

Building a zero harm culture

Contact Energy’s strong focus on workplace health and safety has driven improvements in performance, and the past year was no exception.

The company – which employs more than 1,000 full-time employees – reduced its workplace injury rate by 28 per cent to May 2013 compared with the previous financial year, despite a significant increase in exposure to high operational risk during major construction projects.

Since 2007 the business has reduced its total recordable injury frequency rate by more than 60 per cent thanks to its Towards Zero Harm health and safety programme.

Work programme

In the year to March 31, Contact began a work programme to refresh its safety communications and initiatives. It aimed to drive further improvement across key health and safety KPIs and ensure employees are engaged in the safety culture. A few of the initiatives included:

- Revitalising Contact’s observation programme by implementing a leading indicator based on employee targets for observations, supported by a programme of zero harm conversation workshops to maximise the effectiveness of the observation programme. Target participation rates have been exceeded and observations continue to provide valuable insights and learnings.

- The Stay Safe Mate programme, launched in August 2012, built understanding around individual responsibility and accountability for safety, avoiding uncontrolled risks, and taking action to keep yourself and others safe.

- The Lifesaving Rules are designed to drive awareness around the health and safety behaviours Contact expects to see from its employees and contractors. In February 2013 Contact launched a set of rules that apply to the company’s 11 highest risk activities that have the greatest potential to result in serious injury or death, including when working with heights, under suspended loads, or in confined spaces.

- In June 2012 a programme targeting the safe handling and delivery of LPG cylinders reversed a concerning trend in injury rates in this area of the business. The improvement programme included providing on-job guides with step-by-step instructions, pre-employment physical assessments to ensure fitness for work, and empowering drivers to refuse unsafe deliveries.


Late last year, the company also completed a major planned outage at its Otahuhu plant with nil recordable injuries.

More than 50,000 man hours were worked during the October to December shutdown. During this time, 276 safety observations were recorded, just 19 per cent of which identified unsafe conditions and behaviours. Key learnings were published in a daily newsletter and discussed at toolbox meetings.

The company’s safety focus has also been reflected in the metrics from its major capital projects.

As at May, the total recordable injury frequency rate for Contact’s $750 million Wairakei investment programme year-to-date was 5.0 – below the industry average. The company credits the result to persistent scrutiny of health and safety practices, including the appointment of four full-time safety observers.

Internal feedback from Contact’s 2012 engagement survey proves that employees are engaged with Contact’s health and safety programme, with  87 per cent of staff believing their manager demonstrates commitment to health and safety, 88 per cent feeling comfortable speaking up about it, and 95 per cent believing they work in a place that takes health and safety seriously.

The Excellence in Health & Safety award category is sponsored by Siemens.