Northpower – Safety leadership

The challenge

As one of the largest multi-utility contractors in New Zealand, Northpower has a reputation for excellence and innovation. The company has two distinct divisions: Northpower Network, providing electricity and fibre infrastructure to Whangarei, and Kaipara, and Northpower Contracting, operating throughout the North Island.

Northpower has a workforce of over 1000 staff and contractors throughout the North Island maintaining and servicing distribution and networks. They have a strong commitment to ensuring the safety of all staff, and saw the opportunity to bring about a step change in both how they delivered their safety training, and how safety was viewed across the business.

Business objectives

Northpower saw the need for a behaviour-based safety initiative that challenged the old-school norms and led to staff taking greater accountability for the safety of their crews and themselves. They wanted to ensure that leaders were capable and able to lead the safety culture with their crews, and to set clear expectations about “how we do safety around here”.

Previous safety training had focused on the compliance and technical aspects, e.g. working at heights, working in confined spaces, how to wear personal protective equipment.

Our solution

Northpower challenged us to design a skills-based programme that didn’t take the traditional workbook approach and that brought their real world of work into the learning workshops.

We designed a number of modules that were run as half-day workshops. We created scenario-based safety interruptions to each workshop that disrupted the groups and gave them the opportunity to apply their new skills to a situation they could face on a daily basis.

The resources were packaged into a toolkit rather than a workbook. A3-sized worksheets and cards supported the hands-on approach. We also developed a series of short DVDs showing where Northpower had come from in their safety culture journey, and reinforcing key messages based on personal stories of safety leadership.

Workshops were targeted at mixed groups of frontline and middle managers. This helped ensure that supervisors knew their upline manager was there to support them and the change in safety leadership back in the field.

The results
By December 2015, 304 staff (30.4% of New Zealand staff) had completed the programme.

“We have been working with The Learning Wave for a few years now and have found them creative and innovative, and they listen to our needs. The Learning Wave work very closely with us to tailor the learning experience to what we are looking for, and offer solutions and thought leadership to bring our ideas and learning to life. They have some amazing associates who have developed a good understanding of our business to ensure the learning experience suits our business.

Our employees have enjoyed the tailored learning experience we have developed with The Learning Wave. We have ensured that adult learning principles have been engaged so that the learner is getting the most from the experience and can take what they have learnt back to the workplace and implement them directly with their team. Follow-up is also provided to ensure the effectiveness of the training.

Working with The Learning Wave and their associates has been incredibly easy. We find that they are very accommodating to our needs, offer solutions and take the hassle away by assisting with logistics and ensuring that everything is in place to make an easy learning experience.”

Andrea O’Brien
Safety and HR Manager