Thursday, 24 June 2021 16:30

Well Done: Putting health and safety first at Constellation

Written by  Sophie Preece
Constellation's Safety Day Constellation's Safety Day

Getting employers on board for a "really robust health and safety journey", has seen Constellation Brands transform its injury outcomes over the past four years.

It has also resulted in changes from the coalface to benefit the company and its people, says Sergai Davis, Health, Safety, Environment and Wellness Manager for the wine company, which was shortlisted for the second time at this year’s Good Employer Awards, run by the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust.

Constellation Brands New Zealand (CBNZ) began an overhaul of all aspects of its health and safety processes in 2017, when the reported injuries for the financial year were 285 - equivalent to everyone in the workplace getting hurt at least once. Fast forward to the 2020 financial year and the severity and rate of injuries has plummeted by 76 percent, with just 67 recorded injuries. In Dec 2020, the company reached 1,000 days without “lost time injury” across the whole organisation.

The work began with a wide-ranging strategy, that had staff engagement as a key component. Since then, CBNZ has steadily increased employee awareness, understanding and application of safety practices in the workplace, says Sergai. That’s been supported by technology, including the use of Vault, a management system that allows staff to input hazards and accidents in real-time on a phone or tablet app.

Last year they introduced CBNZ ‘Safety Days’ for all employees at the Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough sites, “effectively shutting down its regional operations for an entire day focussed on health, safety and wellness”, says Sergai. Finding new and innovative ways to engage employees in health and safety – and make it more than a “tick the box” exercise - can be “quite a challenge”, he admits, but was delighted at the success of the inaugural Safety Days. Everyone from the executive team to the vineyard crew came along to the “incredibly fun” event, where team building and health and safety education was all experiential, from personal protective equipment and fire safety, to driving under the influence and drug and alcohol training. “Our people spent a whole day off the tools to be fully immersed in all things safety,” he says, adding that the success of the events means they’ll now be an annual fixture, including at head office in Auckland.

Staff engagement has also resulted in the development of new health and safety solutions, including a new ‘post pulling’ innovation, says Sergai. Droughts in 2020 led to almost 32,000 vineyard posts being damaged and broken during harvest. The viticulture team would traditionally remove and replace them manually, with an “onerous” process using picks and crowbars, with potential for injury, as well as the risk of occupational overuse syndrome. Last year a couple of viticulture block managers and senior operators worked alongside Sergai and his team to develop a mechanical solution, with a hydraulic sliding arm that attaches to the back of a tractor. That has proved faster and cheaper for the company, while reducing the risk of injury and overuse syndrome, explains Sergai. “It’s a really cool example of our people coming up with ways to do thing better.”

The strategy is about more than reducing physical injuries, and over the past couple of years every employee had an opportunity to be trained on bullying and harassment, through Diversity Works New Zealand. Constellation also employed St John to provide mental health training for all employees, then went a step further to upskill some of its own people, who were trained to be facilitators of the ‘Good Yarns’ Mental Health programme. Fifty staff took part last year and all employees will go through the training by the end of this year.

The company also rolled out some additional measures last year, in recognition of the impact of Covid-19 on its employees. The ‘Day on Us’ initiative saw employees gifted a day off during the July school holidays. They were also given $80 vouchers to local businesses and encouraged to explore their own backyards.

Sergai says health and safety has become a real part of everyday life at Constellation, as evidenced by the huge stainless steel tanks that carry messages about the company’s safety behaviours. “It is just ingrained in our culture now. There is of course always more to be done.”

The Wellness Programme

Constellation Brands' Wellness Programme includes comprehensive free annual health checks and mole maps, free daily fruit, birthday leave, and three free of charge 'Safe Rides Home' via a taxi each year. In April it also introduced a Wellness Allowance, in lieu of the $400 annual contribution to gym memberships it previously offered staff, says Tess Keenan, Communications and Community Manager, explaining that because so many of their people already have physical jobs, that "didn't really hit the mark". The broader allowance means any permanent employee can claim activities up to the value of $400 that have a direct impact on their personal wellbeing, whether that's through annual sports licenses, nutritionist consultations, dental costs, sports massages, sports gear, or gym and sports club memberships.

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