Celebrating one of Australia’s Biggest Retail Group’s Height Safety and Climate Leadership
For almost ten years, WAS has had a mutually beneficial partnership with this shopping centre group, one of Australia’s largest owners of retail, commercial, residential and retirement properties. Our aligned values have been key in our endeavour to help them operate safe and secure buildings with certified height-safety systems.
A Culture of Proactive Safety
The first point of contact at this Group was a facilities manager at one of the new shopping centres of the time. Their height safety systems were due for recertification and the previous inspection company had, as they usually do, failed to be proactive about keeping their system compliant. After all, the product was sold, the Defects Liability Period was over, and the job was done.
Aware of his legal obligations, the facilities manager was proactive and on the lookout for an independent and reliable height safety consultant. Workplace Access and Safety happened to be the right company at the right time. The shopping centre was particularly pleased that our systems made it incredibly easy to know when a piece of equipment was due for recertification.
After the successful completion of the project, this manager referred us to his Facility Manager colleagues at a quarterly meeting. This generous act opened the door to the possibility of working on other sites in Victoria, but we still had to get past a critical hurdle.
Inspection Independence & Good Governance
With so many buildings and contractors under his care, The National portfolio manager needed to get the height safety risks managed right the first time. Having the same company supply, install and then certify the safety of their own products was bad governance and unnecessarily exposed the company to great risk. He rightly insisted that the audit & design consultants could not be affiliated with the provider of the product and installation service. The group needed to verify the independence of all the height safety consultants tendering for the quality control & inspection works.
A Massive Collaborative Effort
Each shopping centre across Australia is different in terms of its size, layout, and access points, meaning that individual assessments are necessary, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach. We also found that due to there being many different height-safety installers working on this group’s sites, we found that there was a lot of equipment which wasn’t suitable.
For example, on one site, we discovered approximately 150 anchor points on a roof that were rarely used. Our audit showed that a guardrail would have been more suitable, particularly as the staff had not been trained in how to use anchor points properly, making them a less-safe option. But as anchor points were cheaper initially to install than a guardrail, the previous installer pushed for them instead.
As expected, the Facility & Operation Managers at each shopping centre shared the same values and commitment to height safety as their head office did. We worked closely with them at all sites to help them understand compliance and practicality regarding their height-safety systems. Unfortunately, some installers had certified their own work, even when it was substandard, and there were still many risks, despite their centre being certified compliant.
Workplace Access and Safety worked closely with each of them to identify the different types of height-safety systems in use and to classify them according to whether they were high, medium, or low risk to users. The shopping centre group decided to focus first on the most high-risk items, so our team conducted reviews of the risk assessment and design plans which allowed them to identify the budget they would need to implement them.
Good communication has been integral throughout the entire process, as our team deals directly with each facility and their managers, not just with the group’s head office. This ensures that decisions can be made by the people who work in the centres every day and know these buildings well.
How the Shopping Centre Group Leads Australia on Climate and Safety
As the world grapples with how to mitigate climate risks, the board at the retail group made a decision of significance in Australia’s history of sustainability. Wanting to cut power bills and do something good for the environment, they made the decision to add solar panels to the roofs of their expansive retail buildings. This was a huge project, with a total capacity of over 18 megawatts, comprising around 48,000 solar panels across their retail sites.
While this was an obvious win for the environment and the retail group’s bottom line, it also meant that many of the solar panels had been placed in positions which sometimes interfered with walkways or guardrails. Our team then upgraded our previous designs so that the current height-safety systems could be adjusted and achieve compliance, while allowing the solar panels to be easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance and to function at their full capacity.
In addition to the above upgrade, the risks of unauthorised entries (mostly kids in areas adjacent to rooftop parking) were being flagged by the facilities and operations managers across the shopping centres. This meant we had to design security fencing around certain access points, so that only authorised workers could use the height-safety systems, and thus keeping everyone safe.
Safety & Quality Assurance into the Future
Workplace Access & Safety has also developed a specification and design manual for this Retail Group, so that installation works now and into the future remain uniform across the portfolio.
Their army of switched-on Facilities & Operations Managers have full, 24/7 access to all floor plans and documentation related to their height safety systems via our asset management system. They are fully empowered to keep their maintenance contractors and customers safe.
In NSW and VIC, 90% of the installation work has been completed, which means that Stockland shopping centres in these states have removed all high-risk items.
Our work with this group has shown that commitment to height safety can be achieved through strong collaborative partnerships with no conflicts of interest. Across the group and country, they have been an ideal client to work with and we would like to honour their prioritising of safety and security for their staff and customers.