Collaborators in safety – the enduring partnership between Viva Energy and AECOM

Everyone who works at Viva Energy is keenly aware of the emphasis on Goal Zero, and the belief that every incident is preventable. It is central to how we go about our operations safely and responsibly. 

We’ve long maintained an obsessive focus on driving greater awareness around safety, both within our own workforce and among the contractors we team up with across our diverse operations. One such valued contractor partner is AECOM. 

AECOM has been collaborating with Viva Energy for almost two decades now, predominantly working to provide environmental services such as site investigation and remediation of service stations, fuel depots and refineries along with numerous other responsibilities, including the engagement and oversight of works by subcontractors.

AECOM Safety

It’s a big responsibility across a large scope of work, so safety is paramount. Working closely together therefore is crucial in achieving mutual success. 

Recently, Viva Energy’s Environment Manager Damien Home and Mike Haynes of AECOM sat down to talk about the nature of this partnership, how their collaborative approach has driven strong results, and how expectations around safety have evolved over the years.

Safety as a continual improvement process

“Safety is not just something where you can set up a target, come up with a plan, execute it and then you’re there,” says Damien. “It’s something you need to work on every day. It’s a mindset that guides you, a continuous journey.” 

Since many of our safety and environmental risks lie in site works conducted by contractors and consultants like AECOM, Damien highlights the importance of working closely with them to guide attitudes towards safety, establish clear expectations and processes, and endeavour to mitigate any risks. 

“We rely very much on AECOM to help us achieve Goal Zero,” he says. “It really is a collaboration piece.” 

Mike agrees that safety very much depends on maintaining an open dialogue between all parties, particularly given the stakes. “We’re dealing with heavy equipment, drill rigs, excavators, potential exposure to chemicals and flammables and, of course, people. So when it comes to safety we have to be on top of our game and share the learnings,” he says. 

“Our people are safe, because we’re working for a client who values safety.”

- Mike Haynes, AECOM

Mike explains how AECOM’s daily focus is on site-specific reviews of the required safety processes, making sure individuals – regardless of how long they’ve been on the team – are trained and competent, and understand the particulars of the site they’re on. 
“We’re really driven to take safety from the field to the management team as well,” says Mike. “Our management staff have KPIs around safety, and this together with strong communication, confidence in our people, and better systems and equipment, has led to better controls and processes around safety. 
Better still, these learnings are shared not just with Viva Energy, but with the wider industry as well.

The importance of sharing in safety

Ultimately, the aim is to have everybody, at all levels, knowing they are responsible for driving safety. It means that anyone involved can raise their hand at any time to stop work if there’s something they’re not comfortable with, helping to put safety before delivery.

For both Mike and Damien, this means it’s important to not only have the pre-planning and procedures in place for a safe workplace, but the reporting culture as well. This is crucial to understanding the risks and learning from issues. 

“As soon as we have an issue with either a system or a subcontractor, we’ll jump on the phone to let another client know we had an issue with this process or these people,” Mike says. He stresses however that it’s not about point scoring, nor placing blame. “Most times when safety issues happen it’s not that someone has obviously done something wrong, so it’s about making sure that people feel comfortable to report the incident and when they do report it they’re supported and educated on what the process is.”

“Because ultimately safety is our Number 1 deliverable. If we’re not delivering, the contract disappears - or worse, people can get hurt. We all want to go home to our families every day.”

“Viva Energy and AECOM share a very strong reporting culture, which I believe is really important,” observes Damien. “Even with near misses, we go through a process of investigating the causes and the conditions and developing the lessons learnt.”

“It flows through to every aspect,” Mike adds. “For instance, when we’re required to bring on subcontractors, we use a traffic light system to guide those who want to work with us towards the standards we require. It’s all in our subcontractor supplier database.” 

Damien explains further. “Getting safety right as a contractor is a challenge. That’s why we look to consultants and service providers that do safety well, because it translates to other areas of program management. If you can manage safety well, you can manage the rest of your operations and projects well.”

Inspiring the drive for safer workplaces

For Damien and Mike, it all comes down to leadership, encouraging the desire for everyone to become an advocate, take personal accountability and drive safety together.

“Our people are safe, because we’re working for a client who values safety, who’s willing to support us to put our procedures and processes in place. There’s also no pressure on safety in terms of budget or timelines. It’s not just a side thing,” Mike says. 

“We have safety for life and life preserving principles at AECOM which are very much in line with Viva Energy’s life saving rules,” he continues. “It all helps us embed the mentality, especially among the younger staff and the subcontractors that we often have to engage with, that safety is not just given lip service.”

Indeed, both he and Damien have observed just how much the culture around safety has evolved: people now expect the safety briefings, and feel uncomfortable if safety is not being discussed. “Safety always leads our team meetings,” says Mike. “Everyone is empowered and expected to be a leader in safety.”

“Now, we’ve just hit a record of 10 years with no time lost to injuries working on Viva Energy jobs. We’re proud of that. And it’s thanks to their focus and support that we’ve been able to achieve such an amazing result together.”

Want to know more about Goal Zero and Viva Energy’s commitment to safety? Visit our HSSE webpage for further information. You can also read our interview with June Yew, Safety Process Lead at the Geelong Refinery.

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