Being responsible for the health and safety of the team of one of New Zealand’s leading manufacturing companies is kind of like raising a teenager. Or at least, according to Altus’ Health, Safety & Environmental Manager, Sen Chen. Smiling, he notes that delicate balance of tension and responsibility he feels for his staff, much like what a parent feels when their teen is out at night. You can’t simply turn away at the end of the day and nod off - you’re far too invested, and, let’s face it: you care.
Certainly, Health and Safety Advisor, Matt Artz, likens the Altus team to a close-knit family. “I know most of these guys on a first-name basis, at least. I know whether they like rugby or cricket, I know whether their kids still go to school,” he laughs. “So for me, if something happens to one of these people, there is that sense of responsibility.”
Altus, New Zealand’s leading aluminium company, specialises in design, manufacturing, import and export of extrusion and rolled product to all different industries, from construction, transport, marine and more. Supplying both local and international markets, Altus understands how valuable it is to have innovation as the core essence of everything they do, and how their values help create a winning culture for a leading company. Being at the helm of a New Zealand success story that has supplied Kiwi TV shows like The Block, Managing Director Ron Holden cares deeply for the near 560-people that comprise the Altus team.
However, like any worrying parent, Altus quickly realised that they needed to apply their winning formula of innovation and excellence to their internal systems - or face setbacks as a result of hazy, difficult-to-navigate health and safety and risk management systems.
“There is a lot of high risk here,” Matt mentions. “The site is constantly busy. We’ve always got people going in or out, contractors, visitors, other businesses.” Altus is a hive of activity, where anything can go wrong in a split-second, adding to the weighty responsibility that lies on the health and safety team’s shoulders. Not only is Altus a high-risk business, but with such a large workforce, getting full team buy-in was another challenge.
“We had quite a significant task trying to capture peoples’ hearts and minds.” Ron reflects. “And that’s where ecoPortal really stood out.”
Instinctively, the leadership team knew that an adequate enterprise-wide management system was the next step to help drive and build a strong safety culture. The original system wasn’t living up to the innovative standard, normalised at Altus. Paper-based - with a distinct lack of transparency - company-wide communication suffered.
Using ecoPortal felt like a weight off their shoulders, much like (to circle to Sen’s metaphor at the start) the moment the teen opens the front door, home safe. Matt puts it succinctly: “Instead of basically buying a system, and changing our processes to fit what the system is offering us, ecoPortal allowed us to customise the system to fit what we do - to set up a process flow that works for both of our sites, to have that consistency across sites.”
The intuitive nature of ecoPortal makes it easy to communicate with teams across different sites, creating a standard of consistent, clear reporting at all times.
“It gives us the lead indicator reporting, that drives us forward.” Sen agrees. It’s a system that makes the data easy to understand and share. ecoPortal’s tracking also helps provide rationale for managers to make critical health and safety decisions in the business, especially when formulating protocol around preventative measures.
“It’s a lot less administrative work,” Health and Safety Advisor Michelle Jeffcote adds. “Everything is transparent, and at your fingertips.” Altus has benefitted from the additional time and energy their managers now have, to focus on the real-life connections onsite, strengthening and maintaining those all-important relationships with the team.
Altus are now leaders in health and safety in their industry, and it comes down to their mindset about what the gold-standard organisational approach should look like. “You never want to be in reactive mode, when it comes to safety. When you’re in reactive mode, it’s usually because you’re reporting on something that’s happened, that’s hurt somebody.” says Ron. Using an instinctive system allows Ron, Sen, Matt, Michelle and the team to engage in proactive thinking around their health and safety culture in the workplace, creating rules and regulations that make sense, and keep their people safe. When you’re a company that doesn’t go by the rule book, it pays to have systems that follow your modus operandi, that can be moulded and shaped to suit your needs.
Taking a leaf out of Altus’ book: when you’re proactively creating a safer workplace, perhaps you’re no longer the worried parent waiting for their teen to get home safely - now you’re the figurative bouncer at the club.