Excellence in safety – Coffs Harbour City Council

Excellence in safety – Coffs Harbour City Council


Manual handling’s our biggest issue
because we’re dealing with a lot of heavy gear around deep grave sites.
So we don’t want to fall in. We want to make it
as safe as we can. My name’s John Pearce. I’m the work supervisor
with Coffs Harbour City Council Cemeteries. We’ve got three full time staff working
across six cemeteries in Coffs Harbour. Five years ago, I was in Sydney. I’d won an
industry award with the CCA of New South Wales and part of that award was
working in Sydney for a week at different cemeteries
and I saw a trailer in a shed. Coming back, I spoke to my manager.
Told him I could probably reduce the manual handling around
grave sites by about 95%. My manager gave me
approval to go ahead and researched to find one
to buy or make one myself. I did research on the internet,
couldn’t find anything available so decided to build one myself
out of what we had on site and using as many
local products as I could find. Part of my research included talking to
funeral directors to see if it would work for them and they were
happy to go ahead. The process building
took about a month. It was quite complicated. We had to get an A-frame made,
which we got made in Council. Then we actually had to work out
how we were going to use it. I’d never seen one being used before, so that
was another challenge for us in the cemetery was working out how
in the safest way to use it. We borrowed a coffin and practiced
with it on a training area we built. So it was trial and error and then produced
a standard operating procedure out of that. Since we’ve started using the trailer,
we’ve noticed a significant reduction in bending, twisting,
picking items up off the ground. In the past, manual handling’s
been an issue, particularly for myself. I’d really struggled lifting this
heavy gear all the time. So reducing that has
really helped my back. It’s feeling better. I didn’t know how long
I’d be able to keep doing this job and making innovations it’s made the job easier
to the point where I think I can probably do it till I retire. Feedback’s been
really positive. Funeral directors like it. It’s a lot higher
for them, so they can just place a coffin. They don’t have to
bend down as far. New staff like it as well and
they actually can’t believe the way we used to do it with the
amount of manual handling around graves. I think the safety culture
at the Council’s really on the way up. People
are a lot more aware. We’ve got a new safety champion’s
committee which I’m actually on. It’s important for businesses
to take safety seriously so the guys aren’t being injured
at work and they’re going home in the same condition
they arrived in.

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