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Higgins maintains its first-class standards

Life at Higgins |   Aug 10, 2022 9:30:00 AM

Higgins Coatings was recently re-accredited with a tri-certification across ISO standards, highlighting our ongoing commitment to safety, quality, and the environment. Our ISO standards were recognised by Bureau Veritas, a world-leading organisation specialising in Testing, Inspection, and Certification (TIC). Bureau Veritas had an auditor attend several Higgins branches and review the processes in place surrounding safety, quality and the environment.

This year, Higgins received accreditations for ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001 & AS/NZS 4801, improving our previous ISO 18001 safety accreditation to 45001. While Higgins has long boasted an impressive culture of safety, strides to continuously improve our safety standards have been architected by National Safety, Health, Environment, and Quality Manager Ben Cook.

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National Safety, Health, Environment and Quality Manager Ben Cook on-site 

Ben joined Higgins in 2018 and brought a wealth of experience from Qantas – the aviation industry's gold standard for safety. During his tenure at Qantas, Ben worked as a Manager of Health and Safety within Engineering and carried out internal audits to ensure Qantas maintained its lofty standards. We chatted with Ben to understand how his experience at Qantas moulded his approach to ensuring “everybody gets to go home safely” from Higgins worksites.

Though different industries in practice, Ben noted that the mode of risk in both Aviation and Commercial Painting remained the same – human error. “Coming to Higgins, I knew it was important to maintain the same lens on safety, and consider the behavioural-based principals involved in human error."

Through shifting our focus to injury prevention and lead indicators, Higgins has seen a dramatic reduction in long-term injuries (LTIs). “By encouraging the reporting of at-risk behaviours, we have seen a decrease in medical incidents and in turn reduced LTIs, giving our customers peace of mind that their projects will be delivered safely.” While learnings are still shared and toolboxed after incidents – our injury prevention methods have been key in uplifting the safety of our operations.

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Ben Cook with Higgins' contractor safety handbook

Ben credits his predecessors for creating of a safe workplace noting “the foundations were in place with a bulk of good work done. Well-written and structured systems were in place – changing behaviours was key.” A noteworthy addition to the safety toolbelt of Higgins is our multifaceted communications plan. “Operational communication has changed, and we’ve recognised that emails aren’t sufficient on their own. We’ve adapted to communicate in more appropriate ways to our audiences.” Our contractor safety handbook is available in multiple languages, with a view to adapting into several more this year.

Beyond the introduction of a diverse communication strategy, another priority of his has been sustainability - environmentally and mental well-being. Environmentally, Higgins has partnered with BlockTexx, provided painting works for OzHarvest, and worked with Dulux on their Project Earth program all in the last 12 months. 

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Ben Cook with Higgins General Manager of HR Michael O'Shaughnessy and mental health advocate Wayne Schwass

Mental health awareness is something Ben has similarly strived to improve at Higgins. “We recognise that painting is typically a
male-dominated industry and there’s a stigma attached to speaking about your mental health, but that’s something we’ve looked to reduce. Whether it's communication around our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Higgins’ participation in RUOK? Day! and Mental Health Week, we’ve actively tried to encourage conversations around mental health.”

When asked about his aspirations for safety and sustainability at Higgins Ben admitted “there is no finish line. All standards encompass a level of continuous improvement – the bar is constantly raised to have 0 injuries and 0 harm to the environment.”

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