Most of us fondly remember field trips or a special day out on the weekend heading over to the zoo. There was nothing quite like seeing an elephant for the first time, or hearing the sound of a lion’s roar; or even understanding the core zoo ethos of conservation and why it’s so important to learn about endangered animals.
Wellington Zoo, unabashedly considered the zoo with the ‘biggest heart’ by CEO Karen Fifield, is something special. When quizzed about their workplace, a genuine enthusiasm and love for what they do beams from each staff member.
Karen describes the zoo as “small and perfectly formed”. In her eyes, even though Wellington Zoo is on the smaller side, it certainly has “the biggest heart.” The team takes great pride in the zoo being a hub for the Wellington community; a place of “healing, pride, and the best animal welfare.”
For any regular organisation, managing EHS is no simple feat. Coordinating staff over different locations and keeping an eye over all the different moving parts makes for a busy role for any EHS manager.
Now, add animals to the mix - and you’ve got yourself a completely unique environment with risks that the usual office might struggle to imagine. There’s a range of risks and hazards at the zoo, most notably perhaps, feeding and working with animals that have the potential to cause some serious harm.
Moreover, the workplace environments in the zoo are somewhat varied. There’s an animal hospital, construction and maintenance sites, as well as the animal enclosures themselves. Each workplace has its own safety needs and particular risks.
As a result, the team has to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of each staff member - from zookeeper, to construction worker, to manager - is taken care of.
“It’s very important to us that we create an environment where our people feel very safe to come to work - and also that we provide them with the right tools, equipment and communication to do their jobs properly.” explains Matthew Campbell, Health & Safety Lead.
Despite the enormous number of unique risks in the zoo, there was no one real system yet. Rather, the zoo used an odd combination of clunky bits and pieces: think double-handled data from spreadsheets, word documents, and emails.
Multiple streams of data, and numerous systems post fairly obvious challenges for any organisation. Without a centralised ecosystem for health and safety, EHS managers are constantly on the backfoot, chasing up incident reporting and trying to stay afloat amid the tidal wave of spreadsheets and documents.
“It was a bit of a nightmare to maintain” Director of Safety, Assets & Sustainability, Chris Jerram says, “And also didn’t really provide the transparency that our staff needed.”
Transparency along the way is another critical success factor for organisations and their EHS systems. If the frontline worker logs an incident, it’s essential that they’re kept in the loop about what actions are being done to manage the issue. If they’re unable to see the outcome of the process, organisations risk having their frontline people feel ignored.
Not only was the old safety system a strain on their people, but the Wellington Zoo team also sought better quality data for better quality reporting.
There’s an infectious enthusiasm that we can’t help but notice when the Zoo staff start to talk about their partnership with ecoPortal. So far, they’ve been delighted by the ease and transparency that ecoPortal brings.
“We get the information straight away, and people understand what’s going on every step of the way and then at the end - we have a result that should benefit everyone, because we’ve been consulting the whole way through.” Matthew says.
An unexpected thrill in their ecoPortal journey has been the mobile app, ecoPortal Connect. Using the app ensures that staff in any environment can quickly access ecoPortal to log any key details about an event, when they’re both on and offline.
With a native, user-friendly interface, the app is “super easy to use”, and makes capturing the scene of an event a much smoother process. It’s certainly far more simple to take a photo of what’s happening - let’s face it, animal enclosures might not be the easiest places to describe using words alone - and share with the rest of the team.
Zookeeper Lisa Ridley loves it. “When you submit (your info), it goes to all the relevant people.”
What’s more, the simplicity and ease of the entire ecoPortal ecosystem mean that high-level management has noticed an uptick in the amount of reporting across the board. Having a clear system means people will use it, and become more proactive with health and safety as a result. Small, easily preventable issues can now be ticked off, before they snowball into bigger problems.
“The board loves it too,” Karen adds. “Having access to the real-time data makes a huge difference.”
In such a unique working environment, the zoo has deemed their ecoPortal partnership a resounding success. ecoPortal Connect has been instrumental in bringing safety to the zoo team anytime, anywhere. The layer of transparency and ease of communication both work to ensure that staff can see the entire process of any incident resolution, keeping them in the loop, and everyone safe.