Australia Post is a behemoth in the Australian psyche. Think mail-sorting machines, delivery vans, retail shops and motorbikes, airline freighters and parcel lockers. What does safety support look like in an organisation that delivers to 11.9 million delivery points across Australia?
With an extended workforce that exceeds 70,000 people, Australia Post employs more than 35,000 people directly in a network of delivery, logistics, retail and eCommerce roles, with thousands of indirect employees including LPO operators, delivery drivers and agents.
Following a business-wide restructure, Australia Post decided to review its Health and Safety Organisation operating model as well. With more than 120 safety managers – working in different roles, titles and structures, across different divisions – the executive knew this would be a challenge.
Australia Post approached Forge Works for a fresh approach to safety.
Safety roles in large organisations are complex. The safety organisation needs to intimately understand how the business functions at every level and in every area. In large organisations in particular, safety professionals need to ensure they have a deep and continuous connection to the way front line work happens.
We met individually with approximately 20 safety managers, representing all of the different types of existing roles at Australia Post, from senior level to frontline staff, from corporate to divisional roles, to determine how current safety roles were understood and being carried out.
We built a strong rapport with the safety teams and took the time to get underneath their day to day to work and understand how their roles were being shaped by their stakeholders, the safety management system and the overall organisational culture.
Once we understood the existing organisation from the perspective of the safety managers it was time to get the voice of the customer. We met individually with approximately 20 line managers and other key stakeholders at all levels of the organisation to understand their frustrations, as well as their needs and expectations of the safety organisation.
In keeping with known best practice and recent academic studies on the health and safety profession, we discussed what needed to change to enable more effective performance of these roles, the current challenges and opportunities, and what an ideal organisation might look like when it comes to safety support and role performance.
With this data, we worked with the executive to appraise the current safety model and consider what a re-designed operating model and structure would look like for Australia Post. We began to bring 120 safety professionals together to work as a team.
While a number of the challenges Australia Post faced were consistent with other large organisations, the final operating model approach that we took shifted from the norm when we determined the complexities facing this multi-faceted Australian icon.
Through this company-wide restructure and working with Forge Works, Australia Post was able to improve the effectiveness of the safety function within the organisation. Our approach enabled this complex organisation to restructure, re-organise and re-stabilise its safety workforce.
We designed a safety organisation to increase trust, teamwork, communication and alignment across Australia Post – bringing safety professionals together under strong leadership to deliver what we discerned was lacking in and desired from past and present practices.
While developing new safety roles, we also assessed the value of inherited safety practices throughout the business. By working with Australia Post to gather proactive insights from safety professionals, we were able to re-design the overall scope of the role of this safety organisation to provide improved guidance for the management of a wider suite of enterprise health and safety risks.
Does your safety organisation understand the way your business operates? Is your safety organisation consistently involved in high-risk decisions as they are being made? Is your safety organisation proactive and insightful? If the answer is no, it might be time to invest in a more effective safety operating model.