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Why McFall Fuel's safety culture is no accident.

Preparing for take off.

By now it’s become a classic New Zealand family business success story, but the McFall story goes back many, many years before the inception of the well-known fuel and lubrication business. Initially touted as ‘McFall Enterprises’, Morris McFall first bought farmland in an area that was predominantly sheep and beef. Over time, Morris noticed industrial gaps that led him to expand McFall Enterprises to include road construction and civil works. As Morris’ son, and current Managing Director, Alan McFall puts it, “he started buying a few trucks, but then other people started using them outside of his own farm, so he built a contracting firm.”

As the construction and contracting expanded, so too did the demand for fuel. Alan continues, “there tended to be poor service to some of the remote sites for fuel delivery. So they took it into their own hands, bought a little fuel truck, and started to do their own deliveries.”

As McFall Fuel grew rapidly, so too did the business’ needs and requirements. As the scale heightened, more trucks were being bought, and as such, more drivers were employed. With this increase in scale came more responsibility. By the nature of their work, McFall Fuel was already well versed in intelligent safety practices. They were heavily inspired by (and often mirrored) the rigorous safety practices of BP - a company the organisation was entirely familiar with, on account of BP having progressively transferred the home heat service to McFall Fuels (as did Shell Oil) during the 1980’s. Mirroring these global giants taught the growing business a lot about creating efficient safety systems. “BP and Shell asked McFall Fuel to help them out with home heating and before you know it they had 140 staff and 70 trucks”, says Alan.

Too much fuel on the fire?

But like any business that experiences such growth, those small systems and fit-for-purpose processes began to stack up and needed to be aligned with one another. In the safety space, McFall was using a traditional, paper-based system wherein someone could record accidents, incidents and suggest improvements. Alan laughs, “it was paper-based, y’ know - the ones with actual carbon copy. I mean, it works... but it’s certainly not integrated.”

McFall Fuel then brought in Training & Safety Manager, Mike Crandon, to handle the training procedures: which immediately opened up another range of questions they needed real-time data on: could they confirm staff knew the proper procedures? Could they confirm they are trained properly? Do they have the appropriate equipment? It was becoming increasingly apparent with every move forward that McFall Fuel needed to find an integrated risk management platform. As Alan puts it, “we still pooled all of those separate data points monthly, but it took a lot of time and you were never quite sure you were completely right.”

A decision culminated after McFall Fuel merged with another company (which brought with it another, second paper-based spreadsheet!) Mike Crandon says, “we saw the need to pull those 2 spreadsheets together into one platform. These were 2 very complex spreadsheets, and it was purely myself and the Training Coordinator that has access to them. There was very little transparency. We also wanted something user friendly, easy for the drivers, they've got a lot to think about on the road.”

Launching from an integrated platform.

ecoPortal, a configurable, user-friendly risk management platform helped McFall Fuel to achieve this goal. As a health, safety, environment, risk management platform, ecoPortal was able to navigate and quickly answer some of McFall Fuel’s fundamental questions. “McFall’s biggest driver into choosing ecoPortal was the ability to mold it into what suited our specific business requirements”, Mike noted.

 

 

McFall’s CEO (and former Health and Safety Manager) Sheryl Dawson said ecoPortal was instantly beneficial - especially with her responsibilities in reporting to the board. “We can look at trends so easily. It used to take me hours to pull together the trends for the board reports. Not anymore. With ecoPortal’s clear dashboards, at the push of a button, I can look at the various graphs, see trends in minutes, and ultimately make determinations that improve the safety culture of our organisation."

But benefits weren’t only found at the board level. ecoPortal’s strength is that it engages and empowers workers at every level - from the board to the frontline worker. Driver Trainer, Nigel Heke, found ecoPortal to be highly convenient and a fantastic user experience, saying “with our tablets in the trucks, being able to report on the run has been such a help. Having it electronically there all day has made it so much faster. It helps us. We feel safe. We know if the gear or the truck’s been fixed, and every incident is tracked from the time it’s entered, to the first action, to the investigation, until it’s finally sorted.”

The McFall team were also impressed by the smooth implementation and design process ecoPortal offers, as well as the training and ongoing support. But perhaps the most recurring motif was McFall Fuel’s insistence that ecoPortal slashed administrative effort - giving back the most precious of all resources: time.

Alan McFall beautifully summed up how ecoPortal eases the compliance burden by saying, “good leaders should always want to care for their people, and a good health and safety management system should look after the care and maintenance that needs to be done, it should clearly be able to articulate trends and show how one could prevent incidents and harm. Senior leaders get fatigued by the compliance piece sometimes. So, if a safety management system can make it easy to understand what's going on - that makes it a lot easier for us to buy in.”