Ria Smith is National Health Safety Environment and Quality Manager for Sodexo Remote Sites in Australia. Ria oversees nearly 50 Australia-based professionals dedicated to health and safety. Her teams are responsible for implementing HSEQ processes and systems and promoting a culture of safety throughout our Sodexo teams.
What do our clients expect from the health and safety training initiatives Sodexo has in place?
Remote sites clients have very high expectations around training and we have to comply with their requirements to work on their sites. They measure us in terms of our safety performance and how well we control occupational hazards. If there is ever an injury on a site, one of the first questions asked is whether or not the injured person had been trained in health and safety and – if so – what went wrong.
What are the major health and safety issues for Sodexo employees working on remote sites in Australia?
Employees on remote sites are required to do physically demanding work under extreme conditions. They face numerous occupational hazards that could cause injury and illness. One example is the risk of sprains and strains through manually handling loads – through simple actions such as lifting, holding, carrying, pushing and pulling.
Here in Australia, temperatures can go as high as 49°C during the summer, increasing the risk of heat stress and dehydration. The rugged Australian landscape is vast, and there are challenges in simply getting to and from a remote site. Unpaved roads and particularly dusty terrain are obstacles, but so is wildlife, such as encounters with kangaroos or poisonous snakes. Our people are trained to handle all these kinds of situations.
What kind of health and safety training opportunities does Sodexo offer its employees?
We have very thorough HSEQ induction for all employees and we also provide site-specific training: for example, our workers in mines are trained in handling hazardous chemicals. Certain sites might require workers to undergo firefighter training or senior first aid training.
For our offshore workers, there is a 2 ½ day survival and emergency response training, which includes simulated helicopter crashes into the water, to teach our employees how to survive in case of an incident at sea. There are also specific safety programs on how to evacuate a rig in the event of a fire or an explosion.
We train all our employees on behavioral safety and influence them to make the safest possible choices during their daily activities.
Are these training sessions required by law?
There are basic legal requirements around health and safety training and we certainly meet and even exceed these norms as the industry requirements are generally higher. Sodexo has a particularly strong training program with respect to manual handling and we are an industry leader in this respect.
How are the training sessions carried out?
We have dedicated training facilities, for example the Sodexo Skill Center in Perth dedicated to Remote Sites, and in other situations we provide training either on site or off site. There are logistical challenges getting to some of our operations and our approach to training is adapted accordingly.
We also have what we call “toolbox talks” programs on topics such as injury management and manual handling. These are 1-2 page documents that a site manager can use to educate employees on important topics.
What is the future outlook for training on remote sites?
From September 2013, some HSEQ and food safety training sessions will be available through e-learning modules. The manual handling module will be launched in October. This initiative is notably aimed at providing a more standardized induction experience across the board.