Performing safely

Risk Matters - Autumn 2020

The City of Subiaco has recently had great results in transforming their safety culture through the PErforM program.

Local government workers

The purpose of the PErforM (Participative Ergonomics for Manual tasks) program is to involve workers in improving their workplaces to reduce injury and increase productivity. It is:

  1. A simplified manual task risk management program
  2. Based on a participative approach
  3. It’s evidence based and internationally recommended

Participative ergonomics is an approach which uses workers’ knowledge of the tasks they perform by involving them in the process of identifying issues and coming up with solutions – and therefore improving their workplace.

Many studies show the implementation of a participative ergonomics program remains the strongest evidence based method for reducing injuries associated with manual tasks.

What is a manual task?

Any activity requiring a person to use their musculoskeletal system in performing work. A manual task usually involves:

  • Manual handling (the use of force to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain a person, animal or thing)
  • Performing repetitive actions
  • Adopting awkward or sustained postures
  • Using plant, tools or equipment that expose workers to vibration

Injuries from manual tasks can often result in musculoskeletal disorders – injuries of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, or spinal discs – which can result in time away from work and workers’ compensation claims.

Elements of the PEforM program

Worker participation, management commitment and support, and a site champion are critical to the program’s long term success. Depending on the complexity of the task being assessed, you may also include people such as engineers, suppliers, designers and ergonomists if necessary. It’s important other stakeholders are identified and involved at the outset.

The City of Subiaco recently engaged LGIS to facilitate the PErforM program for their depot.

It consisted of:

  1.  Overview, rollout and survey of depot workers.

  2.  PErforM session #1: The workgroup consisting of a director, two coordinators, a health and safety representative, three team leaders, an HR officer and two workers.

  3.  PErforM session #2: The main aim of this session was to review completed risk assessments and start prioritising them into highest risk tasks.
    • a. Following the ranking process, sources of risk are discussed, with an activity to match these with the high risk tasks assessed.
    • b. This then leads to the discussion of suitable controls and implementation processes, with assigned tasks.

  4. PErforM session #3: Outcome and evaluation. Up to date progress on each of the assessed tasks was provided by the assigned people for each control. At this stage, further controls can be discussed for any introduced risks. 

Some of the big wins for depot crew include:

  • Purchasing a grinder to reduce the need for manual brick paving repair.
  • Green bins instead of manually lifting the bags into back of truck to be introduced in 2020.

Perhaps the biggest win, however, is that the PErforM program empowers staff to transform their own safety culture, enabling staff to be more open in reporting issues and working together to find solutions. Using the tools learnt through the program, the City has extended it to other locations – with outstanding results.

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The City of Ryde, in New South Wales, has experienced the following improvement in their musculoskeletal disorders claims history, following the implementation of the PErforM program. The pilot commenced in September 2015 and the first changes were made in January 2016. The program was expanded into all areas of operations in September 2017.

City of Ryde cost table
Local government worker closing gate
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Other sections of this season's Risk Matters

Local government workers

Performing safely

Risk Matters – Autumn 2020 The City of Subiaco has recently had great results in transforming their safety culture through the PErforM program. The purpose

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